Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939)

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 9.4/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 10/10 (Full Score)


Do not underestimate the power of one individual. A single grain of rice can tip the scale. One man can be the difference in winning and losing. One senator can be the difference in getting a corrupted government bill passed. This one senator who relies on honesty and persistence over knowledge. His name is Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), a novice in politics who changes many lives as well as his own when he goes to Washington D.C.

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington follows Jefferson Smith as he becomes a senator alongside an elder senator and also his father's friend, Senator Paine. As Smith attempts to work his way towards passing a bill to start a children's camp at Willowed Creek, he finds out that Willowed Creek has already been occupied by another bill ready to be passed -- a scandalous graft bill that promotes building a dam on the creek, which profits the corrupted businessman James Taylor. Despite himself being unfamiliar to politics, Senator Smith fights with his honesty and determination to prevent the bill from being passed. Similar to themes that Capra touches on, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington emphasizes on the power of the individual.

Just like any other Capra film, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington strives with excellent writing, one of the greatest screenplays in this critic's opinion. The movie is well-supplied with powerful monologues and simple memorable quotes. Having a lot of people talk at once, as I mentioned before, makes scenarios become much more realistic, and that is a skill that Capra uses so efficiently, to help immerse the audience into his world with his characters. The cinematography is approached in a similar fashion, having the camera either stay still or follow a certain character for a long amount of time. The difference is here, most of the time the dialogue is presented as either a meaningful conversation or a powerful speech -- in this case, delivered by James Stewart. Undoubtedly, Stewart's "filibuster" is the greatest scene in the entire film, even when it lasts for at least a good half an hour.

For those unaware of terms in politics, a filibuster is simply "the right to talk your head off," meaning if a senator is given the floor, he can speak as long as he wishes as long as he has the energy to keep standing as well as talking. For Jefferson Smith, he spoke until doomsday, a little over 23 hours.

Pay great attention on James Stewart in this film, for this is *the* greatest performance of his entire career. You may not support his extremely libertarian statements, but one cannot help but respect and appreciate his perseverance. It is amazing to see how much heart Stewart pours into Jefferson Smith, making him one of the most realistically heroic characters in cinema, alongside George Bailey, which is also portrayed by Stewart. You will feel the emotions with him. You will feel the frustration in his face. You will feel the passion in his words, and above all, you will feel the chills run down your spine when he refuses to yield the floor.

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington careens itself to the foreground as a film that emphasizes the corruption of government. For a film released in the emergence of the Second World War, it was quite a controversial subject to present. However, its very theme of "one individual can make a difference" promotes democracy, the very engine that drives America, and is undoubtedly the best message to deliver in the heap of international affairs. Inevitably, the film was banned in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and the USSR, but to this day, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington is widely regarded as Frank Capra's best film, and was selected for preservation fifty years after its initial release.

In conclusion, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington is a masterpiece, a cinematic work of artistic filmmaking that produces political thoughts as well as emotional thoughts. The film stands tall with James Stewart's greatest performance in his career as well as the greatest screenplay ever written (Academy Award won). It is a timeless classic equipped with Capra's prominent theme as well as normal American ideals. Behind Capra's It's A Wonderful LifeMr. Smith Goes To Washington is, in this critic's opinion, the second greatest film of all time. Driven by an arresting narrative and captivating storyline, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington will have you forget that it is a movie.

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