In a multifaceted career that included scores of sensational performances running the gamut of every social stratum and playing everything from saints to sinners, Paul Newman reached perhaps the zenith of his career in The Verdict, Sidney Lumet’s stunning courtroom drama that’s an even stronger character study of a man reentering the human race. With a cast of luminous actors who all score professional highs and a story that gathers momentum the longer it runs, The Verdict is simply one of the greats.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono), English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), French 5.1 DTS
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 2 Hr. 09 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 05/07/2013
Frank Galvin’s (Paul Newman) law practice has been on the decline for several years owing to a shaky private life and a descent into alcoholism, but he’s handed a case by his legal mentor Mickey Morrissey (Jack Warden) that seems a sure winner: a malfeasance matter involving a botched surgical procedure at a Catholic hospital resulting in the comatose state of a woman after childbirth. Though the evidence seems clearly to suggest the doctors were negligent, the Boston archdiocese brings the full force of its power to quash the suit before it goes to trial. They hire a powerful law firm headed by the legendary Ed Concannon (James Mason) to represent them. THe firm draws a judge (Milo O'Shea) with a reputation of siding with the defense, makes sure the plaintiff’s expert witness is unavailable to testify, and uses a number of other underhanded means to stack the deck in their favor. As Frank watches his once surefire case turn to ashes before his eyes, he can at least take solace in the new woman in his life, a divorcee named Laura Fischer (Charlotte Rampling). But he wants desperately to win the case for his client and for himself.As is often the case with Sidney Lumet films, the director takes his time getting to the heart of his plot. In the case of The Verdict, we spend a great deal of time early on watching the film’s protagonist operate: his ambulance chasing, his funeral crashing trying to drum up business for his crumbling firm, his drunken rampages where he manages to destroy his own office. It’s only when humanity begins to creep back into his persona that we as an audience begin to root for him, and, of course, that’s when the disasters begin to befall Frank and his case. David Mamet’s script based on the novel by lawyer Barry Reed skillfully weaves courtroom sequences with Frank’s frantic search for additional evidence he can use for his case so that the film never seems overly talky, a risk sometimes with courtroom dramas. Not so here, and Lumet complements Mamet’s script with his own expert helming shooting, for example, a very important revelatory scene from on high with no dialogue at all, allowing us to see from body language alone the effect the shocking information has on Frank. And as always in the best courtroom thrillers, the outcome is often in doubt and the build-up to the jury’s verdict is tension-filled. But as the movie is just as importantly about Frank’s reemergence into the human race, he’s really already won in a way: he can hold his head up high knowing he’s done everything he can for his client.Frank Galvin is unquestionably Paul Newman’s greatest film performance. From the utter moral depths of his soul that we see when we first meet him through his step-by-step reentry into the pleasures that the world offers those who choose to find them, Newman doesn’t make a single false step. His fearlessness in showing Frank’s stupors, his phoniness on occasion, his outrage (watch him stand up to the judge in chambers when he wants a mistrial; it is electrifying), and his tenderness to those he loves: it’s all here in one of the great film performances. James Mason does masterful work, too, as the wily lawyer slyly content with the power he wields and smugly superior to most all with whom he interacts. Jack Warden, always solidly realistic and down to earth, is a stalwart friend and professional companion to Newman while Milo O'Shea exudes outrageous favoritism and an active dislike for Galvin through body language and facial expressions without even speaking. Wesley Addy as the doctor on the hot seat acts his part with wonderfully tentative alarm obviously hiding something he’d rather not discuss. Charlotte Rampling’s smooth and slinky Laura Fischer seems too good to be true, but really comes into her own later in the movie. Edward Binns as Bishop Brophy, Lindsay Crouse as former nurse Kaitlin Costello, and James Handy as the brother-in-law of the victim all lend strong support in small but crucial roles.
The Production Rating: 5/5
The film has been transferred in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is presented in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Inconsistency is the word of the day regarding this transfer. For every scene that features excellent sharpness and realistic color, there are others that seem unduly soft and with color somewhat blocky. Flesh tones are sometimes appealing and at other times chalky or overly pink. The image is sometimes natural and sometimes overly processed looking. But there’s no denying that there is inconsistent contrast, mediocre at best black levels, dust specks particularly in the early going, and some aliasing in some tight line structures. The film has been divided into 32 chapters.
Video Rating: 3/5 3D Rating: NA
The Blu-ray offers two different DTS-HD Master Audio encodes: 5.1 and 1.0, but there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between them for the most part. The 5.1 may give a slight expanse to Johnny Mandel’s spare score and a slightly noticeable boost in the low end, but either track will allow you to hear the wonderful dialogue without distraction by any age-related artifacts.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Audio Commentary: Sidney Lumet does the majority of the talking in the lengthy film though there are numerous silent gaps as the film runs. Paul Newman adds some comments edited into the commentary track.The Making of The Verdict (9:06, SD): the EPK featurette for the film featuring sound bites from director Sidney Lumet, stars Paul Newman, James Mason, and Jack Warden, original book author Barry Reed, and producer Richard Zanuck and David Brown.Paul Newman: The Craft of Acting (8:45, SD): the actor looks back on his experience making the movie appreciating the three weeks of rehearsal and the joy of working with Sidney Lumet.Sidney Lumet: The Craft of Directing (10:47, SD): Lumet discusses his techniques for directing and how he chooses material.Milestones in Cinema History: The Verdict (23:14, SD): the most substantial bonus on the disc discusses the various scripts that were written prior to filming and the numerous actors who wanted the role and were at one time attached. Commentators include Sidney Lumet, Paul Newman, Paul Newman, Lindsey Crouse, Richard Zanuck, and David Brown.Hollywood Backstories (22:08, SD): another in the series of behind-the-scenes AMC television mini-documentaries about the making of the movie.Theatrical Trailer (3:16, SD)
Special Features Rating: 4/5
A great Hollywood film unfortunately not given a sparkling Blu-ray release, The Verdict remains one of the best films of the second half of the 20th century. Though the video quality is not up to par, the film’s superb acting, script, and direction save the day. Despite the video inconsistencies, recommended!
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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