Tag Archives: Sidney Lumet

Serpico (1973) Review

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Serpico

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains offensive language
Cast:
Al Pacino as Frank Serpico
Director: Sidney Lumet

Frank Serpico (Al Pacino) is an idealistic New York City cop who refuses to take bribes, unlike the rest of the force. His actions get Frank shunned by the other officers, and often placed in dangerous situations by his partners. When his superiors ignore Frank’s accusations of corruption, he decides to go public with the allegations. Although this causes the Knapp Commission to investigate his claims, Frank has also placed a target on himself. The film is based on a true story.

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I heard a lot about Serpico going into it, it’s a highly praised movie about the real-life story of a police officer who is going up against police corruption. The film is directed by Sidney Lumet and stars Al Pacino in the lead role of Frank Serpico. The movie certainly lived up to the acclaim that its being receiving.

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This biopic covers the years of 1960 to 1972 and retraces Frank Serpico’s undercover career as he tries to clear corruption from the police force, while coming up against roadblocks and people who want him out of the way. The script is tight and absorbing, the story is told in a very real way, and it had me engaged throughout. Its actually incredible that its an biopic it doesn’t get bogged down by melodrama, its essentially a character study of a man trying his best to change a system that has no inclination to change. There is a real sense of doom and danger throughout its runtime, even when you know that Serpico is still alive by the end of the movie. His stance against police corruption made him a target for his fellow officers, and you really feel his paranoia and stress along with him. The script remained largely focussed on the real life issues at hand, and a lot of these topics are still relevant all these decades later. Serpico can be a frustrating movie to watch, but definitely in a good way, you get really invested in Serpico’s efforts. The movie can be a little slow at times, but it handles the 130 minute runtime well considering that there are multiple events, storylines and characters it has to cover and follow.

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Al Pacino is brilliant in the lead role of Frank Serpico, a good cop caught in a bad system. Despite it being a biopic about him, Serpico not portrayed as a saint or a martyr. He’s shown to be quite flawed, conflicted, and is very compelling to watch. Pacino gives a charismatic and empathetic performance here, and he really conveyed the stress and strain the character is under. His performance also doesn’t feel overplayed for dramatic effect, it feels very real and authentic. The supporting cast all do a good job in assisting Pacino, but make no mistake, he is the star of the show here.

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The direction from Sidney Lumet is fantastic as expected. It’s very well shot and edited, and it all feels very real and grounded, doing particularly well at setting itself in 1970s New York. The score also adds to the atmosphere, its quiet and mellow and really fits the movie quite well. I even like how the passage of time is conveyed through Serpico’s hair length.

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Serpico is a very well crafted biopic and crime drama. The story of its title character was compelling to watch, Sidney Lumet’s direction is great, and of course Al Pacino gives a phenomenal performance here, some of his very best work. I wouldn’t say it quite measures up to some of Lumet’s other movies like Dog Day Afternoon or 12 Angry Men, but it is still a great movie and one that is worth checking out.

12 Angry Men (1957) Review

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12 Angry Men

Time: 96 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains low level offensive language
Cast:
Martin Balsam as Juror 1
John Fiedler as Juror 2
Lee J. Cobb as Juror 3
E. G. Marshall as Juror 4
Jack Klugman as Juror 5
Edward Binns as Juror 6
Jack Warden as Juror 7
Henry Fonda as Juror 8
Joseph Sweeney as Juror 9
Ed Begley as Juror 10
George Voskovec as Juror 11
Robert Webber as Juror 12
Director: Sidney Lumet

When a Puerto Rican boy is on trial for the alleged murder of his father, 11 of the 12 jurors are quick to vote that he is guilty in an ostensibly straightforward case. The remaining juror, Juror #8 (Henry Fonda), seems sceptical about the evidence at hand and demands a thorough deliberation of the facts from each juror before sentencing the boy to death, to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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I remember that I watched 12 Angry Men for the first time many years ago and I remembered liking it. However, it had been a while since I had seen it, so I’ve been meaning to rewatch it for some time. Having finally rewatched it, I can say that I love it even more and it’s now one of my favourite movies. This is an incredibly made, entertaining and engaging film, written, directed and acted excellently, and is absolutely a must see.

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12 Angry Men is based off the play of the same name, and you can really feel that it’s based off a play, especially with the heavy focus on dialogue. While I’m not familiar with the original play, they seemed to have translated it very well to the big screen. It has a great script, with some well written dialogue, and it keeps you constantly engaged throughout. Even though you don’t learn most of the characters’ names, they are very memorable and distinctive (albeit with some receiving more characterisation and focus than others). Given the subject matter and how simple and straightforward the initial setup is, the movie could’ve been dry and uninteresting but it is very interesting and even entertaining. The movie really is driven by the dialogue, and it’s compelling to watch all of these characters’ discussions and debates on the centre issue. The way that 12 Angry Men sets up the plot at the beginning is actually brilliant. At the beginning of the movie, we never see the actual trial, and we only hear about the case through the jurors in the room that the movie takes place in 99% of the film. The film also has a lot to say thematically, including systematic racism and xenophobia, and much more than you’d expect going in. The plot is tightly paced across its 97 minutes yet with never a dull moment.

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There are 12 actors playing each of the jurors, and all of them do a fantastic job in their respective roles, bringing these scripted people to life with naturalness and sincerity. The most well-known of the actors is Henry Fonda in the lead role, playing the only juror who at the beginning believes that the defendant isn’t guilty, and he’s great in his part. The rest of the cast including Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley, E.G Marshall and Jack Warden also deserve as much praise as Fonda.

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Sidney Lumet’s direction was also a big reason of why the movie works so well, even though it’s not usually what comes to mind immediately to most people when they think of 12 Angry Men, compared to say the writing and acting. Lumet’s first feature film has great cinematography, and not just in the sense of looking flashy and stylistic, at first glance it’s pretty standard (albeit looking decent). However the use of blocking and focus (particularly on faces) is really effective. Additionally, lingering on certain moments, people and objects, not breaking the shot and letting things play out made some moments really made the scenes even better than they already were.

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12 Angry Men is an absolutely essential film to watch for sure. The writing is fantastic, the acting is phenomenal, and it’s directed greatly. At over 60 years old it remains an absolute and timeless classic, and can appeal to pretty much everyone, even if you’re not really into ‘old movies’, and is now firmly one of my favourite movies of all time. If it’s not a perfect film, at the very least it’s pretty close to it.