Albert Finney looks the part of Hercule Poirot in his only turn as the Belgian detective extraordinaire in the 1974 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express.” But he also runs through the hallway of the titular train at one point, anxious to pursue the next step in his investigation; running seems so undignified for the great sleuth. It’s one of several things that are just a little bit off in this mostly faithful adaptation from director Sidney Lumet and writer Paul Dehn (“Beneath the Planet of the Apes”).
From his first writing credit (1981’s adaptation of “The Postman Always Rings Twice”) through his most recent writer-director gig (the 2013 TV movie “Phil Spector”), David Mamet has given us a new appreciation for the way men talk to each other, outlined the keys to pulling off long cons, and provided insightful looks into controversial historical figures ranging from the Prohibition era to tabloid headline-grabbers.
The Verdict” (1982) is most known for the engrossing turn by Paul Newman as a down-and-out lawyer who gets obsessed with one case, but it’s also the pinnacle of the courtroom drama form under the eye of legendary director Sidney Lumet (“12 Angry Men”) and an early example of David Mamet’s chug-along writing. While the film – rightly nominated for a Best Picture Oscar – is more than 2 hours long (a rare exception to Mamet’s 100-minute standard), it’s not boring for a second, and it’s worth that extra time as Lumet lets us soak up the details of Boston and the trappings of Frank Galvin’s dreary office and the grand courtroom.