I'm a bit torn with this film. On the one hand, I feel that parts of it are quite brilliant and powerful. On the other, I find the story to be too disjointed to carry the full power that it could have.
The opening hour or so feels almost like an episode of the Andy Griffith show, as we follow the kids around, watching them goof off, misbehave, and allow their curiosity to get the best of them. (That's not a diss on Andy Griffith, by the way, because I love that show)
However, the film makes an almost complete 180 when it comes to the courtroom scene. While I was somewhat interested and amused at the first part of the film, I was enthralled by the maddeningly well-presented courtroom sequence. Gregory Peck is brilliant, particularly in the extensively long takes; he alone holds the audience's attention and makes it look easy.
I found the issue of racism was presented in a staggering, unflinching, realistic light that made you truly feel for Tom Robinson. Brock Peters' portrayal echoes through your heart as he goes through the trial. In fact, that sequence alone prompts me to raise my original 3-star rating to 3 1/2 - it was that good.
Then we get to the post-trial part of the film. The scene with Jem and Scout in the woods is masterfully lit and choreographed. But I wasn't quite sold on the ending. It felt like it belonged to a different film - the film that was the first hour of the story, not the courtroom part.
The film is well worth watching and gives an unflinching look at racism and equality, but is too disjointed to wield the power and tragedy that the story deserved.