The Crucible (1996)
Directed by Nicholas Hytner
Based on the stage play The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Screenplay by Arthur Miller
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Winona Ryder, Paul Scofield, Joan Allen, Rob Campbell
Abigail Williams (Ryder) creates a stir when she begins to accuse fellow citizens in Salem of witchcraft. This soon begins as frenzy as this literal witch hunt takes over the community.
This film is an adaptation of Arthur Miller’s play of the same name. The play was initially written as an allegory for the dangers of McCarthyism that swept through Hollywood in the 1950s. Miller (Death of a Salesman) would not only contribute his play, but also the screenplay for this film. His work would earn him an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film was directed by Nicholas Hytner (The Madness of King George). The film stars Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln), Winona Ryder (The Age of Innocence), Paul Scofield (A Man for All Seasons), Joan Allen (Face/Off), and Rob Campbell (Unforgiven).
This story was intended as an indictment of the McCarthyism that led to the ruin of many careers in Hollywood. Miller made no mistake about that with this on-the-nose allegory. Despite the clear statement being made, this story holds up on its own. Using the Salem Witch Trials as a vehicle, this one goes after the contagious frenzy that came with the moment. The strength of the film comes from the small hints of the truth that are scattered throughout the movie. The story also does a good job magnifying the horror of the events. The weakness of the story comes from the dialogue. The use of old English speech styling makes this feel overly rehearsed. Luckily other aspects of this movie help to make up for this.
The acting in this one is pretty good from all of the main cast members. Daniel Day-Lewis finds every bit of emotion in his character and uses it all wonderfully. Every moment of his performance is steeped in passion and intensity. He’s also able to connect with both Ryder and Allen in this one. Winona Ryder’s performance is excellent as well. She does a nice job playing the deeply flawed and confused Abigail. She also finds a way to show the inner-conflict of her role without giving too much away.
Joan Allen also does a nice job with a very intense role. Her role adds something special to the deep emotions of her character, and those she shares scenes with. She earned a nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her great performance. She’s joined by Paul Scofield and Rob Campbell, both of whom do great work in this one. As a whole, the cast does very good work with this one. Some of the dialogue is a bit awkward, but they rise above it and make this one pretty good.
The production does a nice job of creating the era of the film through sets, locations, and costumes. The look of the movie seems to fit both the tone and the mood of the movie. The cinematography also captures the emotion and the confusion of certain scenes through some interesting choices. Sometimes this feels a little gimmicky, but it also provides some very good moments. The score for the film also adds something nice to the movie. Overall, this is a solid movie that fans of the stars should definitely see. I would also suggest this to fans of Arthur Miller. I give this one 3.6 out of 5 stars.