Anatomy of a Murder Reviews
That being said, this is one the best courtroom movies I've ever watched.
I think I might be heading into a territory that some might think of as spoilers, so those who want to avoid them, you should probably skip this paragraph of the review: The big risk that Anatomy of a Murder took was leaving it all somewhat ambiguous. A typical movie about a murder trial makes it clear by the end precisely what happened and why. They make it clear that the defendant is either guilty or innocent, and often that is telegraphed very early on so we know who to root for throughout the case. But in this film they stick to the case, they present facts as they are brought up in court, and they never tell you how to feel. Was the murder justified? You decide. Did a rape occur? Maybe. Was justice served? I don?t know. It?s frustratingly open to interpretation, and my own opinion kept shifting throughout the entire runtime. I think this might grow on me if I watch Anatomy of a Murder again, because it puts you in the mind of the jury, but for now I find the lack of clear-cut answers a little aggravating.
I love the way law is practiced in movies. I know that much of the drama and surprises don?t really happen this way in reality, but it is so exciting for me to watch. There are lots of twists and turns in this film that kept me guessing, and the results of the verdict were a mystery to me right up to the end. It did feel like there were some odd rabbit trails taken in the investigation of the case, and I think people who don?t love this kind of movie could get bored with Anatomy of a Murder. However, I took it all in stride and found that many of these things became significant later, so it was all worth the journey. Perhaps the one aspect that never totally clicked for me was the relationship between Jimmy Stewart and his coworkers (the overworked/underpaid secretary, and the drunk partner.) Otherwise, this is a unique film that took some chances and most of the time they paid off big for me. It had moments that made me laugh, and it also had some gripping drama that had me holding my breath. I?m anxious to watch it again and see if it clicks even more on a rewatch.
Brilliant - the greatest courtroom drama film ever made. The only similar movies that come close are To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) and Witness For The Prosecution (1957) and though while these have other great qualities neither matches Anatomy of a Murder for sheer courtroom realism and tension. (The TV mini series The Night Of also deserves a mention, I might add).
Directed by Otto Preminger (Laura, Exodus, The Man With The Golden Arm, In Harm's Way, among others), the movie holds your attention for every second of its 160-minute duration. Engaging, watertight plot with some clever legal twists and turns. Very realistic and edifying look into the justice system.
Add to this Preminger's superb direction. One of the reasons you can't look away is that Preminger wrings the maximum out of every scene and shot - great use of actor's body language and subtle little things that help the plot, mood and intrigue.
Completing it all is the nagging feeling that you aren't sure whether the accused is guilty or not. There's no good guys vs bad guys, just prosecution vs defense (like in real life). It's this ambiguity and mystery that make the movie so gritty and utterly compelling.
Anatomy of a Murder was nominated for seven Oscars in 1960, including for Best Picture, but won none. 1960 was the year of Ben Hur.
Side note: Oh, and a little tidbit: as a critic who notices the little things more than the big things, a man can be seen reading Leon Uris's Exodus. Exodus was Otto Preminger's next movie.