Saturday, 8 May 2010

'And there is no justice: the rich win, the poor are powerless.'

The Verdict
Dir. Sidney Lumet
(1982, Twentieth Century Fox)

An undisputed classic courtroom drama, with a hard hitting Newman performance.

The Verdict, Newman is a desperate alcoholic lawyer ins hospital negligence case. The opening title credit scene is beautiful. Newman in silhouette playing pinball, with a beer on the windowsill, the camera slowly tracks in. Cue Newman visiting funerals and flogging his business card to the bereaved. The photography in the film is astounding, Andrzej Barkowiak is the D.P. The blacks in the film are majestic, Newman's black overcoat – is horribly sinister, in fact we are in a sea of black in the funeral scenes. The final scene in the courtroom crescendos and plays brilliant, Bartkowiak's photography makes the court room look like a cathedral, Newman in pulpit with all eyes on him its beautiful- a wonderful daylight touching the frame. Again the opening scene really demonstrates the skill of Lumet's direction, no need for dialogue just action – it could work as a silent film we show Newman's desperation – and what he has to battle against in this tale of struggle and redemption – himself. Essentially The Verdict could be a standard courtroom drama, Lumet, Newman and Mamet make it extraordinary. When Newman visits a nurse asking her to be a witness in his case – it's a brilliant piece of writing abiding by the economy and simplicity – In a school playground Newman walks towards her and his plane ticket from Boston revealed in the top pocket of his overcoat– the nurse clocks this and Newman steps forward and says 'help me' – she knows what he's come here for. Newman's relationship with Laura Fischer I liked and the complications that ensured and his reaction, all brilliant, but the story should not have ended on the two of them – this was about Newman and no one else. Newman again is brilliant, the nuances he brings to Garvin's alcoholism, the walk, the breath freshener and the glazed eyes. I loved his obsession with pinball a perfect metaphor, he's desperate and yet wants to win. The bar he hangs out in serves him breakfast – a jug beer and a egg – brilliant.

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