Tom Hanks stars in Philadelphia as Andrew Beckett, a rising lawyer at a prestigious law firm in Philly. As Andrew is appointed to a senior position, his superiors begin to notice visible symptoms of the AIDS virus which he has recently been diagnosed with. After one of Andrew’s reports suspiciously disappears upon a major deadline, he is promptly fired.
Andrew immediately suspects sabotage and begins to prepare for a wrongful termination lawsuit towards his ex-firm but is unable to find a lawyer that will take the case. After a former rival, Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) turns down his case, Andrew is left to his own devices as he continues studying for a possible case. After a chance encounter at the library, Joe rethinks his decision and despite his permeating homophobia, agrees to take Andrew’s case.
A nasty legal battle ensues, and the defense attorney (eloquently and viciously portrayed by Mary Steenburgen) for Andrew’s former law firm attacks Andrew’s lifestyle, credibility, and professionalism in a tumultuous trial. While a media circus ensues, Joe continues to struggle with his homophobia as well as unwanted attention and advances from the public, all while Andrew’s struggle with AIDS becomes worse by the day.
Philadelphia is one of the first major motion pictures to focus on the AIDS virus, as well as homophobia and gay discrimination, and for that reason it will go down as a pioneering and groundbreaking film in cinematic history.
Tom Hanks is powerful and convincing in not only portraying a victimized minority, but also a man that is dying and fighting for his God given rights in his first Academy Award winning role. His touching and unflinching portrayal of Andrew stands with Hanks’ greatest roles such as Josh Baskin in Big and Forrest Gump. Denzel Washington also brilliantly illustrates a conflicted man journeying through his own insecurities and prejudices to do what is right.
Aside from great acting across the board, Philadelphia boasts a razor sharp screenplay and beautiful cinematography throughout. You simply have to see this movie if you haven’t already.
An enthusiastic 5 stars out of 5.