Jewison's film is an old-fashioned biopic, complete with pivotal backstory, voiceover narration, and a character who enters the protagonist's life and changes it immeasurably. It's one of those stand-up-and-cheer movies where everyone seems to be against the hero, but above all odds (and with more than a little help from some of his friends), he rises above The System and gets his belated due. It's an oft-used scenario, with many scenes that could easily have been taken from Jewison's other films A SOLDIER'S STORY or IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT. Yet despite the familiarity of the storyline, I'll be damned if I wasn't choking back tears of elation at the movie's triumphant conclusion. It's a masterful piece of filmmaking that proves Norman Jewison's skill as a director, as he transcends the cliche-bound script and, with the help of Washington and company, makes it a powerful entity all its own.
As the Hurricane, Denzel Washington proves he is one of the best actors (if not THE best) in the business today. He can run the gamut from cold hatred to hearty laughter like few others can. He brings dignity and class to every one of his pictures (he was the only thing worth watching in THE BONE COLLECTOR). Here, he makes you FEEL every single thing he's feeling. In times of righteous indignation, you feel morally outraged alongside him. When he's at his most vulnerable, you can feel your throat constricting and your eyes watering. He has an uncanny knack for reaching into your soul and making you part of the picture itself; it's almost as if he's channelling the viewer while acting. Other actors delight in wowing the audience with grand theatrics and histrionics, but neglect to make the audience care; Denzel is usually soft-spoken and low-key, but always holds your attention.
In summary, THE HURRICANE was one of the most exhilarating motion picture experiences I've had all year. Norman Jewison directs with a deft surehandedness reminiscent of his late 1960s/early 1970s glory years, Denzel Washington delivers perhaps the most awe-inspiring performance of the year, and the audience goes home happy and feeling good about themselves and the world. What more could be asked for?