Starring: Richard Gere, Edward Norton, Laura Linney
Director: Gregory Hoblit
Running Time: 129 mins
Primal Fear is an American film about the high-profile killing of a beloved priest, and the crack lawyer who attempts to get the seemingly obviously guilty choir boy accused with his murder off death row.
This film, for a gritty courtroom drama, is a lot of fun. It’s not necessarily the cleverest or most profound film you’ll ever see, but it’s got a massively intriguing story line, twists and turns that make it largely unpredictable, a very fast pace and a host of brilliant performances.
In fact, that was the thing that really impressed me most: the performances. This is one of the best performances I’ve seen by Richard Gere, because he brilliantly pulls off the most complex character in the film – a man with flaws but a clear drive for success, and with Gere’s excellent confidence in this role, it’s hard not to support him.
As well as him, Edward Norton in his breakout role as an apparently murderous choir boy is also very exciting to watch, because he really keeps his cards close to his chest to make a thoroughly enigmatic character. However, the most impressive performance in the whole film is by Laura Linney, who plays a secondary character that in most films would be cast aside as just a necessity for the plot development, but she really owns absolutely every scene she’s in, bringing her character very much out of the role of just a secondary player.
The story revolves around a pretty gritty crime, and in terms of the violence and portrayal of the brutality of a lot of the tougher stuff in this film, it doesn’t hold back, which was good to see because it just made it all seem a lot more realistic and tense. Fortunately, however, this film isn’t dark, nor is it a heavy-going depiction of this gritty trial, so it remains a pleasantly exciting watch that you don’t actually have to be fully encapsulated by to enjoy.
And that’s where the strength of this film comes from. Of course, it’s intelligent, and it pulls you around with its constant twists and turns, heightening the unpredictability, but the main thing is that it’s just a lot of fun to sit through and be taken on this crazy ride. To be honest, some of the plot lines are a little preposterous and it’s on the whole not the most convincing film you’ll ever see, but there’s no doubting that you’ll definitely be engrossed by the story and will come out of it thoroughly entertained, so that’s why it gets an 8.2 from me.