Iím not usually big on courtroom dramas. Law and Order and shows of that ilk donít usually get me in. However, within the first ten minutes of this film, based on the best-selling novel by John Grisham, I was pretty hooked. There are myriad hidden agendas running throughout and dynamic performances from everyone in the cast. Plus, the writing is sensational with sculpted meaning in the dialogue relatively easily understood.
Nick Easter (John Cusack) just got jury duty. Heís trying to get out of it, but he canít. Then he ends up on the biggest case of the century as a gun company is being sued by a woman whose husband was killed in an office massacre.
Enter Fitch (Gene Hackman), a street-smart lawyer with a team of technological professionals and thugs working behind the scenes to shape the verdict in exactly the manner he wants. The fact heís working for the gun company ensures they will get the verdict they desire.
Dustin Hoffman plays the prosecutor whose down-home style approach means he canít compete with these vigilante style tactics from the defense. And then thereís Nickís partner Molly (Rachel Weisz), who has told them she can control the jury from within. Whatís more, she proves it and each time she does, Fitchís chances get slimmer. However, he is powerful and has contacts. He discovers Nickís connection to Molly and before long the jury has been sequestered within a hotel and even as they ponder the caseís outcome, dark forces are still at work. The only thing is, we donít know whose side they are on or whether this whole scenario has been orchestrated by others.
Itís a tense and quite nail-biting final hour here that has been masterfully brought to the screen. There are so many subplots and hidden agendas itís hard to know whoís scamming who until the final act, when it appears there are still wildcards left to draw. An impressive film in a stronger and certainly more complex vein than some of Grishamís earlier adaptations, and the superb cast bring the tension to the screen admirably. In the past each actor has played both goodies and baddies, so even with this, we canít Hollywood-guess whoís going to come out on top.
The transfer here is nigh on perfect, with superlative vision delivered razor-sharp. There are only a couple of film artefacts throughout, but certainly nothing distracting. In fact, if Iíd not been looking for them I could easily have overlooked them, they are so rare. There are plenty of computer terminals and such that all come across beautifully as does the sporadic use of digital cameras for action scenes.
Blacks border on deep blue occasionally, but for the most part they are true while shadow detail fluctuates between good and not great in darker moments. Otherwise the video transfer in 16:9 enhanced 2.35:1 is just sensational.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround does a fabulous job here of bringing the film to DVD. While not the busiest of surrounds, it carries the music quite often. The subwoofer too brings in the deeper bass of the music, but not a lot else. Dialogue is all very nice with multiple accents throughout, and although some of the legalese may confuse occasionally, it is still explained subtly to the point of understanding.
The score has been composed by Christopher Young and it suits well, interspersed with tracks of the Cajun region. These are a nice touch, but anyone familiar with Grishamís work will recognise his fingerprints, as he sets the majority of his work in the South.
There are no extras in this rental release, but a retail release may well bring some interesting items if they go into discussions of the technology in the film or the legal inspirations of the case. Even a cast commentary will be welcome here with so many top-notch performers.
Overall as rental I have no hesitation in recommending this one. For fans of Grisham this a nice and fairly easily followed adaptation with a superb transfer to DVD. Every cast member is sensational and the myriad hidden agendas arenít anywhere near as confusing as may be thought. They have the potential to be, without doubt, but the film has been precisely and brilliantly edited to afford easy access for those unfamiliar with the workings of the courtroom.
Great stuff with so many twists, it maintains an ability to surprise right to the end.