Courtroom dramas and great closing arguments have been a staple of cinema since the addition of words. It’s probably the best forum for monologues in a picture, and it gives an actor a chance to do a bit of stage acting for the camera. (Click here for my Top 10 Courtroom Scenes of All-Time) One of the very best closing arguments comes from 1982’s The Verdict which paired possibly the greatest actor of all-time (my favorite) in Paul Newman with one of the greatest directors of all-time in Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, Network), and one of the greatest screen and stage writers of all-time in David Mamet.
Newman always brought an honest conviction to whatever role he played, be it Cool Hand Luke, The Hustler, Butch Cassiday, or alcoholic lawyer Frank Galvin in The Verdict. His closing in The Verdict isn’t long at all (by that point in the trial Galvin knew it didn’t need to be). It’s simple, powerful and effective. Without being hokey or cornball it lays out the hope we all have for our justice system: that at the end of the day, honest people embody the law and do right by it and those on trial. We live in cynical times, and it’s hard to act as if we have faith still in the system. Maybe we shouldn’t. But listening to Newman orate, you want to still believe. In a career of over 50 years of powerful performances, this is just a page in Newman’s portfolio, but it’s a great one.