Sidney Lumet made the right choice when he asked Paul Newman to play the dejected, alcoholic and self-destructive once-successful lawyer who seeks one last chance at redemption. There is a particular scene where Newman suffers a small breakdown and locks himself inside his bathroom and requests Charlotte Rampling to not pressure him. I’m sure it’s a moment that many of us, who had experienced overwhelming pressure at some point in their lives, can relate to. The film boasts standout performances from every major player, especially James Mason, Jack Warden and Milo O’Shea. It’s a shame that Newman didn’t receive an Oscar for this. It’s one of the best character studies out there and no one could have handled it better than Lumet.
Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
Never before have I seen a murder mystery with such a unique conclusion. It’s not surprising considering that it’s the adaptation of an Agatha Christie story and naturally, the ingenuity of it should be credited to her. There have been countless adaptations of her work in both cinema and television but what elevates this one above them all is the immaculate direction of SidneyLumet and the expert lensing of cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth (2001: A Space Odyssey). It is thoroughly engrossing right from the opening frame and not a single moment is dull. Albert Finney is an absolute joy to watch as the exuberant, jovial, observant, clever and occasionally comical detective Hercule Poirot. He is almost unrecognizable here and one could argue that this is his finest role. I wonder how Lumet was able to bring together and skillfully manage such an impressive cast.