Matthew McConaughey’s Greatest Performance: The Lincoln Lawyer

Arts & EntertainmentTelevision / Movies

  • Author Thomas J. Brown
  • Published April 1, 2021
  • Word count 909

Matthew McConaughey is without question one of the greatest actors of the modern era. It seems that no matter the role, he finds a way to give his character gravity, drawing the audience deeper into the film with each passing scene. It is McConaughey’s wit and charisma that make him a major box office draw. While he has received numerous awards and countless accolades, one performance and one film stand out above all others: The Lincoln Lawyer.

McConaughey’s portrayal of a defense attorney faced with an unexpected set of circumstances resonates for several reasons. The internal turmoil he faces while dealing with what is ultimately right versus wrong is something every human being faces at some point during their lives. The following aspects of his performance are what make this film Matthew McConaughey’s signature performance.

• Complicated Interpersonal Relationships

McConaughey’s character, Mickey Haller, is a well-known defense attorney in the city of Los Angeles. His ex-wife, played by Marisa Tomei, is a prosecutor. They have often found themselves on opposing sides of the same case. Even though they have competing professional interests, they do have one very important thing in common, their daughter. Although they are no longer an item, they are both concerned parents who work well together as parents. They remain friends, even though their competing interests may lead to the occasional verbal dispute.

As we go through life’s journey, the relationships we form often become complicated. Coworkers can become friends, lovers are sometimes on again, off again. And then there are instances where grey areas become hard to define. As defense attorney Mickey Haller juggles these dynamics, the audience is left rooting for him to make sense of it all throughout the film.

• Internal Conflict

In one very telling scene, an officer asks Mickey Haller how he copes with the number of criminals he has enabled to roam free on the streets. Haller goes on to relay a story of catching the district attorney trying to pin additional murders on a suspect, knowing full well the suspect was only guilty of one. The officer is clearly dissatisfied with Haller’s response and the two of them agree to disagree on the matter.

Although Mickey Haller has always viewed his occupation as a necessary part of the American judicial system, he is ultimately faced with a dilemma of right and wrong he cannot dismiss. When it becomes clear that his client is not only guilty of assault but is also a serial killer who has managed to fly under the radar, Haller’s conscience outweighs any attorney client privilege that comes with his retainer. Although he is obligated by law to defend his client, Haller does not want his client to leave the courtroom a free man. The conflict between his occupational duties and his sense of right and wrong is an internal struggle anyone who watches the film will be able to relate to.

• Making Atonement for Past Sins

Haller’s dilemma becomes that much more intense when he is finds out one of his client’s murders was tried and convicted with the wrong suspect. What makes it that much worse is that Haller was the defense attorney who convinced his client to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. He must now look in the mirror, knowing that his assumption of guilt led him to put an innocent man behind bars while the real murderer roamed free. While defending his current client from an assault and battery charge, he is faced with the prospect of trying to right a wrong he committed years ago.

Every human being will make mistakes as they go through life’s journey. The most important thing is to learn from those mistakes and make efforts to right the wrongs we’ve made along the way. The audience feels attorney Mickey Haller’s passion as he tells a friend he failed his innocent client years ago. It is his dedication to finding a solution that makes his actions admiral and relatable.

• Outmaneuvering the Opposition

Mickey Haller ultimately finds a solution that satisfies both his professional obligation and his moral dilemma. He leads the unknowing prosecution team to enlist the services of a prison informant. While they are unaware that the informant’s conflict of interest will damage their assault and battery case against Haller’s client, his testimony also brings to light the fact that the defendant committed a murder for which another man was tried and convicted. By getting an acquittal for his client while simultaneously producing evidence that leads to his arrest for murder, Haller has killed two birds with one stone. A serial killer will finally be tried for his crimes. An innocent man who was wrongfully convicted will eventually be set free.

The Lincoln Lawyer is a compelling film with many life lessons for the audience to walk away with. We will all be faced with a moral dilemma at some point in our lives; the important thing is how we choose to deal with it. Matthew McConaughey’s portrayal of an attorney in a complicated situation is humorous, intense, thrilling and relatable. In a film full of notable performances, his shines the brightest. The Lincoln Lawyer is a must-see film for anyone who loves a good drama. The plot is full of unexpected twists and in the end, viewers will feel they’ve learned something about life along the way.

Thomas J. Brown is a member of the National Sports Media Association and a regular contributor to several websites dedicated to sports. In addition to being a sports aficionado, he's also a movie buff and a fitness enthusiast. His work is often humorous and insightful, and always original. To view more of his articles visit

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