Primal Fear Reviews
After an altar boy is accused of brutally murdering a famous archbishop, his lawyer begins to realize that he has a split personality which causes him to do violent acts. He then has to perform the difficult task of pleading insanity to the jury.
This movie is a very good courtroom thriller. It brings its own twists and alterations to the genre and it makes for a pretty well-crafted movie. Although its storyline is pretty typical by today's standards, it is still a great watch because of the plot, twist, and acting.
The acting in this movie is very well-done. Edward Norton is able to sound like 2 convincing characters. His performance is well-done and it shows us that he can convincingly convey different emotions and moods. I also really liked Laura Linney's performance. She plays the role of a rude and nasty lady and her facial expressions and the tone of her voice often makes us hate her in several scenes involving the courthouse.
The plot twist at the end caught me off guard. I'm not going to spoil what it is but it's really well-done. It doesn't make the movie seem unrealistic and fanciful at all and it changes the movie immensely on your second viewing. The movie gave no nods or clues to it so it's extremely hard to be able to predict it. It comes truly as a surprise.
So in conclusion, this is one of the best courtroom dramas in the past few decades. It has a great plot and a great twist. But most importantly, it is the movie which first introduced us to Edward Norton and how great of an actor he was.
The prosecutor Janet Venable (Linney), believes this is an open and shut case, but knows that she has to be on her toes as her and Vail have quite a history. The two constantly play a chess match with each other throughout the film, despite the fact they somewhat feel for each other romantically. As the investigation begins, disturbing evidence comes into play that involve scandal and corruption with the archbishop. Vail uncovers that the State's attorney (John Mahoney) and real estate moguls lost millions of dollars due to the archbishop refusing to build property on church grounds. He also discovers the archbishop was involved in filming sex acts between woman and his altar boys. As this investigation unfolds, a psychiatric evaluator Dr. Arrington (Frances McDormand), uncovers that Aaron has multiple personality disorder. This diagnosis is due to Aaron's abusive past with his father, and scandal uncovered with the archbishop. This reveal gives the audience, and all the characters a completely different set of eyes on the entire case. Despite this discovery, Vail cannot now plead insanity as this would change his plead and be grounds for him being disbarred. Vail has no choice, but to try and lead the prosecution into this same conclusion.
Primal Fear was a riveting court room drama. The dark under tones of the film, the new evidence that keeps unveiling throughout the film keeps the audience guessing. Edward Norton was excellent and earned a well-deserved Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. His ability to be the innocent and somewhat slow-witted Aaron, and then transform into the dark, violent and angry persona Ray was incredible. The film does a great job balancing politics, the law, and the emotion in this murder case. The film also adds a morality aspect to the film as you begin to question if one can truly execute a person who is insane. Gere provides one of his best performances and is an excellent lead. You root for him as he looks for ways to find the best in people and strive for justice in a case that has all the odds against him. Some of the tangential characters and paths that Gere investigates as part of the corruption element are the only aspects of the movie that drag the movie down a bit. The characters are what really sell this story as all of them are convincing. I truly believed Gere was a hot shot attorney, and his was in it for the morality and not for the money. Norton's troubled past, and stutter made him quite a convincing and innocent character. The tension between Linney and Gere added a respectable element to the film. Primal Fear is worth watching for Edward Norton's performance alone. The story, cast and direction certainly build on top of this, and Primal Fear is one of the better court room dramas.