Typically, there's an artifice to courtroom dramas: they rely too much on machinations of the case to manufacture tension, much like sports movies that depend entirely on the thrill of the endgame. Here we're blessed instead with Paul Newman, whose face can reveal a change in motive without uttering a single word. Frank Galvin is the story, not the case, which makes this cinema, not Court TV.
Three things: 1) Master director at the top of his form; 2) as uncompromising and not-very-glamorous a performance from a Hollywood star of the oldschool as you are ever likely to see (Fonda in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST notwithstanding); 3) screenplay that imparts information in a remarkably sophisticated manner (at least for awhile). Will say, though: the Mata Hari business is a bit of a hard swallow (and lame).
With films like Network, Dog Day Afternoon and 12 Angry Men under his belt Sidney Lumet has quite the career. However, with "The Verdict" Lumet might have managed to make his best film yet! Newman gives an great performance. He is vulnerable and weak, but at the same time he has a strange strength. It also helps that this film is very reminiscent of one of my favorite films Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder!
Quite common premise of an off-course lawyer opposing the unjust judicial system is presented in two ways. By an equally common script, however impeccably paced, missing a few targets. And by director's genuine craftsmanship, creating space, characters and tension through unobtrusive but constantly ambitious camera-work.
the cons: frank galvin is... underwhelming and his charm wanes. the silent, brooding, wünderkind alcoholic schtick gets old after the first 30 minutes. i really dislike that laura fischer (rampling) is essentially galvin's mirror. the pros: incredible shots (pay attention to camera angle when you watch it), a gripping story with ample pathos. overall: a finely crafted product that could've done more.