13th Film Reaction and Critique

Film about correctios should be chosen to show how particular aspects of the criminal justice system are portrayed in film. You are required to submit essays reacting to and critiquing the film.

Each Paper Should Include Two Parts – Reaction and Critique


A reaction paper is just what its name suggests—a paper explaining your reaction to a film. It may be like a review, because your reaction may involve judgment or evaluation; it may be like an analysis, because your reaction may focus on a particular character, relationship, scene, or film technique. It may also be like a journal entry, in that it presents a personal reaction rather than an attempt to provide either definitive judgments or detailed analysis. It differs from a journal entry, though, in that it is a more formal essay, prepared for an audience.

Like any good essay, your reaction paper should develop one primary idea or perception, support it with specific evidence (usually references to individual shots or scenes), and present both ideas and evidence in clear language and a logical order.

The first part of the essay should include a reaction to each film. These essays should reflect a careful consideration about what you think or feel about what you have seen. While you are watching the films, think about the following questions:

  • How do you feel about what you are watching?
  • What do you agree or disagree with?
  • Can you identify with the movie or characters in the movie?
  • How do you evaluate the situation in general?
  • What did you find striking, illuminating or peculiar about the film?
  • Does it help you get an historical sense of the period it depicts, and if so how?
  • To what genre does the film belong?


The second part of your essay should include a critique of the film, in terms of how well the film portrayed particular aspects of the criminal justice system,. While you are watching a film, think about the following questions:

  • In what ways does the film accurately portray the aspect of criminal justice it depicts, in your opinion?
  • In what ways does the film fall short of recreating the aspect(s) of criminal justice it depicts, in your opinion, and what would you have done differently?
  • If you did not know anything about the criminal justice system, how would this film (good or bad) affect your perceptions about the criminal justice system, criminal justice practitioners, crime victims, offenders, and/or criminology?

Reaction/Critique Papers Must Meet the Following Criteria:

  • 2-4 pages in length
  • Double-spaced, 12-point font, Times New Roman
  • Must be produced in Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx format)
  • No cover page – header should include course information and your name
  • You should identify the film’s title, director, and date of release, as well as principal actors. Throughout the paper, the film’s title should be underlined
  • In-text citations and a reference page should be included
  • Proofread carefully: grammar, spelling, mechanics, citations, etc. will be part of your grade
  • Must be submitted as an attachment in Canvas in the assignment section
  • Since a reaction paper describes your own reaction to a film, it is appropriate to use first person (I, me, my, mine) occasionally. But remember that the paper is primarily about the film, not about the writer
  • Avoid the frequent problem of too much plot summary! Any viewer can get the plot from viewing the movie, so if your paper devotes too many words to plot summary, there’s not much “value added” in the paper. This reaction paper will offer little to a reader if it mainly retells the story.

A few different techniques can help you avoid retelling the story.

  • One way is to choose a narrow thesis, focusing on a single scene, for example, or perhaps on a secondary character. If you focus on a central theme or major characters, you’re more likely to follow them through the whole film, and tell the whole story again.
  • Another technique is to stress topic sentences in your paragraphs—make sure that each paragraph has a point to make, that it’s not just advancing the plot.
  • A more mechanical approach is to arbitrarily limit your plot summary to a single short paragraph.
  • A more psychological approach–though not always appropriate–is to assume that your reader has already seen the film, and that you don’t want to waste the reader’s time with what he or she already knows.