One recurring criticism of the witch-trial drama The Crucible revolves around the parallels the '50s play draws to McCarthyism—and how relevant is an anti-McCarthy message in 1996? There's one problem with that argument: The Crucible in its current form is a movie about the Salem Witch Trials, which reportedly predate Joe McCarthy. Oh, and it's a good movie about the Salem Witch Trials, featuring a gripping final reel and an impressively broad performance by Daniel Day-Lewis: His fine work throughout the movie's first two thirds is rewarded by several climactic Oscar-clip tirades. Winona Ryder is also solid as a manipulative temptress, and a fine supporting cast of surprisingly complex characters includes such stellar players as Paul Schofield. Arthur Miller's screenplay keeps everything nice and faithful to the period, and the actors have the dirt on their hands to prove it. The movie lacks polish as well, and that's to everyone's benefit.

Advertisement