Directed by: Gregory Hoblit
Starring: Richard Gere, Edward Norton and Laura Linney
Primal Fear is a film filled with excitement, suspense, intellectual stimulus (meaning it might make your brain hurt) and of course, as the title states, a little bit of fear thrown in the mix as well.
This movie happens to be Edward Norton’s first film and if you don’t know who Edward Norton is, then you should be ashamed of yourself. In fact, you should stop reading this review right now and go watch Fight Club and then tell me you don’t know who Edward Norton is. Also ,after you are done watching Fight Club, come back here and finish this article.
Incidentally, Edward Norton earned his first Oscar nomination for his heartfelt and emotionally raw performance in this movie. Norton has a way of making you believe in him, and if that doesn’t get you to watch the movie then I don’t know what will. Maybe it will end up being my awesome writing skills that will finally pull you in. No matter what it is that ultimately gets you to watch this movie, you will be thankful when you are done.
Primal Fear is the type of film that keeps you on your toes, constantly making you guess what the next move will be. This movie might be more appropriate in a boxing ring the way you keep getting knocked down, one surprise after the next and before you even have time to recover from the last blow, you’re getting smashed in the face again. That analogy might have been a tad too literal, but you get my point. It is not one of those multitasking do-your-homework-while-texting-your-BFF-and-watching-the-movie kind of movies. You will have to ask someone else what is going on if you do that and then they will probably want to hit you, because they don’t like answering questions during a movie. Or is that just me?
Okay that’s enough of my rambling; lets get back to the movie. In this film we are introduced to prominent defense attorney Martin Vail (Richard Gere) who is good at his job and isn’t afraid to flaunt the fact that he knows it. He is also a very arrogant man who thinks he can win any case that he touches. So when he sees on the news that the archbishop of the Catholic Church has been murdered and a young scared alter boy named Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton) has been arrested and convicted of the crime, Vail jumps in to take the case and defend Aaron. Thus begins Vail’s crusade for glory and innocence.
Vail begins to take a personal interest in poor, sweet, stuttering (I’m not trying to be mean here, he actually stutters in the movie) Aaron and believes that he is innocent. The fact that Vail believes in Aaron only fuels his fire more to prove that Aaron did not commit this crime. Vail begins to resort to low and shady tactics – not that he didn’t do this in many of his cases before mind you – to help sway the jury in his favor. By doing this, Vail starts to upset a lot of important people who want Aaron convicted, like the district attorney and Janet (Laura Linney), the prosecuting attorney on the case.
While all these courtroom antics and evidence gathering are taking place, Vail had been having Aaron talk with a therapist. In these sessions the therapist and Vail come to discover a surprising revelation that could turn the trial on its head. The shock here is completely unexpected in my opinion and a very hard twist to guess, and yes, that is a challenge for any of you who think you could guess this one, or the one that comes later on as well.
So Vail and Molly, the therapist, have discovered this “fun fact” let’s call it, and now have to figure out how to slyly incorporate it into the trial in order to help Aaron in winning his case and being set free. Well, from here on out a series of unraveling and shocking events take place until it all comes down to the final battle of wits and cunning between Vail and Janet.
“Who wins?” you might be wondering. “Does poor Aaron finally get set free? What are all these damn twists you keep hinting about?” Don’t worry, all your questions will be answered shortly, and by shortly I mean when you eventually decide to watch the movie yourself (gotcha). So instead of sitting here wondering what happens in the movie, like if Vail’s unorthodox and at times illegal ways will help him to win again, or if they finally catch up to him in the end, because these things can only be discovered by watching the film and finally experiencing your Primal Fear.