Argumentative August #15 – The Accused (1988) – Filmfunkel
Rob and I would like to once again welcome you to another review for our Argumentative August Blogathon. This next film, The Accused is being reviewed by Tim of Filmfunkel. Let’s see what he thought of this movie…
The Verdict (1982)
The Verdict is an excellent court-room drama, a tight cat-n-mouse tale of facing overwhelming odds for justice. It has a smart script written by David Mamet loaded with potent scenes and piercing dialogue. Sharp directing by Sidney Lumet (who also directed 12 Angry Men) includes superb use of visual metaphor. Things like staircases transcend their prop-status and actually tell part of the story.
Frank Galvin (Paul Newman) is a broken, boozing lawyer with a trainwreck for a past. His former partner has found him an easy case: a comatose woman, given the wrong anesthetic, her baby was lost and her brain is gone. Take the settlement and run. Easy.
In doing his prep work, though, the injustice of what he sees sparks a chance to keep his last drops of dignity from evaporating; but it’s an uphill battle. His opponent is the PR-minded Archdiocese with their equally shrewd lead attorney Ed Concannon (James Mason): himself a Prince of Sharkness even among lawyers.
The narrative is loaded with honesty, betrayal, pain, and conviction; all real, all believable. It pits redemption and justice against heinous medical malpractice coverups, the ruthless nature of giant law firms and their buy-them-off ecclesial bed partner. Placing our trust in those who screw-up and force us to live with their mistakes is a fear we’ve all faced.
Mason heads a wonderful supporting cast. All the characters have a remarkable richness. No character details have been unattended. Even the knacky Irish accents are fantastically used. The score is not only well-composed, but masterfully applied.
Something, though, rises over all of this: an extra thread preeminent amidst the thrills – a simple tale of transformation. Newman goes from a hungover, game-playing, has-been hiding from himself to a man who finds a piece of self-respect.
This tale of transformation is told, almost exclusively, on the face of Paul Newman. Long, thoughtful pauses allow him to reveal deep, unspoken, inner-workings with absorbing craft.
One role of a soundtrack is to communicate – when it can’t be stated outright – what a character is feeling. The most profound moments in Frank Galvin’s transformation are done with no music whatsoever – testament to the strength of Newman’s performance.
Where he goes, we go with him, and we believe him the whole journey. This is what remains when the thrill of the case is gone.