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Calvin Freiburger

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‘Gosnell’ movie reviews pour in: ‘Brave, groundbreaking, shrewd’

Calvin Freiburger

October 16, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The new movie about Philadelphia late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell has finally been released, leaving viewers across the country shaken but impressed.

Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer depicts Gosnell’s arrest, trial, and conviction for the first-degree murder of three born-alive babies and the involuntary manslaughter of patient Karnamaya Mongar. It’s based on a similarly-titled book by the film’s producers, investigative journalists Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer.

According to the 280-page grand jury report, Gosnell killed hundreds of newborns who survived abortion in his blood-stained clinic by cutting their spinal cords with scissors. Witnesses described infants who survived initial abortion attempts as “swimming” in toilets “to get out.” He is currently serving a life sentence for his crimes.

Gosnell is directed by Hollywood veteran Nick Searcy, from a script written by novelist and conservative commentator Andrew Klavan. The cast features veteran TV actor Earl Billings as Gosnell, The Night Shift actress Sarah Jane Morris as District Attorney Alexis McGuire, former Superman Dean Cain as Detective James Wood, and Searcy as Defense Attorney Mike Cohen, who is based on Gosnell’s real-life lawyer Jack McMahon.

Christine Wechsler (on whom Morris' character is based) and the real-life Wood served as consultants on the film, which also relied “very heavily on actual court transcripts” and “dozens of hours of interviews with Kermit Gosnell” himself, McAleer says.

Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin, who extensively covered the original case, called Gosnell “brave,” “groundbreaking,” and the “most important movie in America right now — a true-life saga of good vs. evil, deadly medical malpractice, systemic government malfeasance and cultural apathy toward the most vulnerable members of our society.”

“Perhaps what the speech-suppressers who don’t want you to know about ‘Gosnell’ fear most is this chilling conclusion,” she surmised: “Deadly indifference to protecting life isn’t tangential to the abortion industry’s barbaric practices — but at its very core.”

Ed Morrissey of Hot Air, a friend of McAleer and McIlhenny, praised the film for letting the events speak for themselves rather than accenting anything with “‘style’ or intrusive camera techniques,” for the cast’s “realistic portrayals,” and particularly Billings’ “performance of his life” for capturing Gosnell’s “almost courtly weirdness and insouciance.” In a follow-up post, Morrissey defended the film’s accuracy by comparing its depictions to the grand jury report.

“Why are some babies ‘so precious’ and others just ‘medical waste’? Very few films make the obvious contrast Gosnell does, because they understand that avoiding that comparison is part of the way society learns to live with a great moral evil,” wrote conservative author Mark Steyn. “The filmmakers do not belabor the point: Indeed, the strength of Gosnell is that it is a true-crime drama, a police procedural, a courtroom cliffhanger and all kinds of other things rather than a piece of anti-abortion propaganda.”

“That was a shrewd decision: Gosnell is well filmed, well told, well acted, and both powerful and entertaining,” Steyn concluded. “But it also has a rare integrity that should be rewarded at the box office.”

Alex Chediak at The Stream implored readers to “go see it and tell your friends about it, singling out Billings’ portrayal of Gosnell, Searcy’s depiction of the arguments in the trial, and the film’s commitment to letting the facts speak for themselves rather than deploy graphic imagery for shock value.

Citizens for a Pro-Life Society director Monica Migliorino Miller praised Gosnell as “well-acted, well-written, and well-paced,” and a “true film achievement” for being brave enough to scrutinize the abortion industry, but concluded it “stops short from being the unforgettable film that it could have been” because the filmmakers opted not to show images of abortion victims such as Baby A, whose photo is shown to the grand jury – but not the audience – at a pivotal moment.

But while Miller attributed the decision to the “understandable” marketing and distribution concerns of a pro-life film trying to navigate pro-abortion Hollywood, Chediak saw the mystery of what jurors saw as a strength: “This lack of graphic imagery engages the minds of the viewers. It doesn’t just pull at the strings of their hearts.”

“Frame by frame, Gosnell tears apart everything America has told itself and the world about abortion,” the Spectator’s John Waters wrote. He praised it for “venturing immediately across the lines that society puts down to protect its evasions and hypocrisies from public scrutiny,” using the facts of the case rather than any “manipulative techniques.”

“During cross-examination, the inherent irrationality of our nation’s approach to abortion law stands out in stark, neon relief,” Megan Basham wrote at WORLD Magazine. The “performances, production, and pacing of the movie more than do justice to the difficult subject matter.”

“Perhaps we should be glad that mainstream Hollywood, just like the mainstream media, had no interest in this story,” she concluded. “It’s almost impossible to believe they would have told it so well.”

Gosnell grossed $1,235,800 over its opening weekend despite the mainstream media’s aversion to the subject matter, making it the most successful independent film, fourth most successful new release last weekend, and 12th overall at the box office. Mainstream film reviewers have largely ignored it, but the film currently enjoys a 99% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, based on more than 750 user ratings.

Interested readers can find a complete list of theaters screening Gosnell on the movie’s official website.

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