The Verdict (1982) Directed by Sidney Lumet
I could tell you about David Mamet's great, but faulty script. I
could mention really good supporting performances from
Charlotte Rampling, Jack Warden and James Mason. I'm laying it
down that this movie captures autumnal Boston on screen in a
beautiful way, each shot carefully composed. I might point out
that Lumet's storytelling skills are a little obvious, in a wishy
washy, tearjerker, "makes you feel good at the end" kind of way.
I could point to the smug liberalism on display here that actually
stops this being a great expose of the USA legal system.
This film definitely has many flaws and many things to admire.
But all considerations are off when you watch Paul Newman as
alcoholic lawyer Frank Galvin, who's given one last crack at a big
case that will save him being "lost" if he wins. What's interesting
here is that Newman is so good in this film he gives credence to
all it's faults. He makes us ignore what is in essence a typical court
house drama, a David & Goliath story which will only ever have one
obvious outcome. It's in his blue eyes, etched in the lines of his great
face at the final summing up. His attempt at redemption is
fascinating viewing. Newman makes this a great movie.
These kinds of dry 1970's-style movies are popular in this
household. A lot of drained color, a lot of misery. Although I like
them usually, the court dramas and political thrillers of this period
have made me yawn a couple times. The Verdict (a court drama
indeed) is unsentimental to the point of unattachment, but
somehow this works for it in the end. Probably, because of Paul
Newman, who becomes very likable during the two hours. It is also
always inspiring to see the small people winning against big
corporate crooks. This is Erin Brockovich without Erin. But there
is Charlotte Rampling again. I'm starting to think that Rampling
only took roles where she could play the emotionally disturbed
miserable woman (always in that same beige camel coat).