In this essay, I’m going to tell you about a film called “Let Him Have It.” It’s about two young boys who get involved in the killing of a police officer. Derek Bentley, 19, and Christopher Craig, 16, never thought they would get to a point where one of them had to kill someone when breaking and entering into a warehouse. The director, Peter Medak made the film because he wanted the audience to feel sympathy for Derek Bentley, who was executed for a crime he didn’t commit. Whereas Craig, the young gangster who brutally murdered police officer, PC Miles, got only 10 years in prison because of being underage.
The director showed us about Derek’s early life by making the young boy look defenceless and innocent during the blitz. First came the flashbacks when London was under attack, where Derek was buried under a pile of debris. The mood was frantic, everyone was trying to help him and it was all chaotic. This childhood is completely different to Craig’s one. Craig was a big troublemaker; he had a very rough childhood compared to Derek’s. The director showed these two scenes about both Derek and Christopher because, he wanted the audience to know what kind of backgrounds these boys came from. He wanted us to judge Derek and Christopher’s past up to what they have become now.
Let Him Have It Hanging
Derek came from a loving family who cared and stood by him. Examples where love and support is shown in Derek’s family is when he had nice long chats with his sister, Iris, in his bedroom, when she encouraged him to give up smoking, this shows that she really cares for her brother and wants him to be happy and healthy. Another example is when his father tries to get a job for his son. What made Derek’s parents happy was when his sister took him out for the first time into town. The director also shows the whole family having a Sunday evening together chilling out and relaxing in the living room. Whereas Craig’s family is not shown in the film to represent they don’t spend time with each other, except for his brother Niven who got into trouble mostly all the time, he served 12 years in prison for armed robbery at Waltham Abbey.
Derek’s lack of confidence is shown wherever he is. For example, when he and his sister were out in town, they entered a record shop, and the woman behind the counter started flirting with him. He didn’t know what to say and stuttered because he was so nervous. Other times too, like in the courtroom his head was down because he was too nervous to look at people, even his own family. This behaviour is totally different looking at how Craig acts. Whenever he’s with his friends, he feels as if he’s the leader of the gang and takes control of everything. His confidence got him into trouble sometimes, always taking risks, like in the early days at school, when he used to swap guns with classmates. He was always trying to show them off, and one reason for this, is because his classmates used to take the mickey out of him for having dyslexia. He’s the cocky and cheeky type, this shows that Craig has to act like this to make others aware that he is not scared easily and can stand up for himself. In the courtroom, Derek shaked and nearly had a fit when he spoke but Craig had his chin up and spoke clearly, with cocky confidence and arrogance to the judge.
Derek admires and looks up to Craig because he finds everything great in Craig’s lifestyle. Examples are friends, money, women, cars …Craig makes it look easy about having a girlfriend, loads of friends, having a lot of money and possessing a nice car. Derek wants Craig’s life because he thinks it’s exciting and fun.
The night when they decided to rob the warehouse was actually the night of the shooting. They both climbed over the gate, first Craig then Derek. At that precise moment, a little girl sees them and the police are alerted. When the police arrive, Derek’s behaviour changes. He thinks about what his family will make of him -” My dad is going to kill me…” he starts to panic and wants to own up but Craig holds him back. Craig is acting jumpy as well but tries to stay calm. He tries to play it tough, and making it like he’s not scared and in control. He says things that he thinks are daring to the police officer, like-“Come and get me if you want…!”
During the trial, Derek is shown to be vulnerable and naï¿½ve. When he answers questions he looks down and shakes a lot. During that time the camera does a close up of him looking nervous, because when the judge asked him a question, he was nervous about his answer. Derek tells his story with hesitation, however Craig just tells it without even thinking. When the judge told him about the amount of guns he carried from the age of 11 to 16 and then went on to ask if he carried them with him altogether, Craig seemed to find that amusing and answered mockingly “Of course not Sir, I carried a few at a time…”
The director shows people in authority in a bad light in the film- to make us think that they’ve done wrong, and punished an innocent person. For example, the people who put Derek in approved school, they seem like they can’t be bothered with Derek, they don’t think he’s smart, and want nothing to do with him. Also, he shows that the army medical officer, doesn’t want an unhealthy person like Derek to fight with a weakness, in this case- Derek’s fits. The policeman on the roof was much the same, he could clearly see that Derek did nothing, possessed no gun, and killed no one, but he assumed that his fatal words -” Let him have it Chris” directly meant -” Shoot him”. However, any person who thinks logically will know that Derek’s innocent words actually meant- “Let him have the gun, Chris.” The judge, jury and lawyer also mistake those clear unoffending words for something they think are guilty, which makes Derek’s chances of not being executed very low.
In the last part of the film, the build-up to the hanging is very emotional and stressful for everyone. The director tries to break our hearts, showing us the state of the family, people who support Derek; he does a close-up of the clock to indicate how much time Derek has before his brutal death. The music is very slow and gentle, so it can match the speed of the pre-execution. At around 9am, he’s in his cell, saying his final prayers with a Priest. The actual hanging itself, happened so suddenly, you didn’t have time to think about what was going on. Derek was shaking as the police officer gave him his drink to calm him down, then being taken away to his death place. When he was being executed, the speed changed very quickly as did the music, it went along with the speed- very fast. The way the director shows Derek, roughly handled by the men and how abrupt the procedure was, with a bag on his head and feet and hands tied up, makes us feel very sorry for him and angry with everyone who put him through that. And that’s exactly what the director intended us to feel when he made this film.