It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Presumed Innocent" opens on a shot of a jury box in an empty courtroom, the shadows dark along the walls, the wood tones a deep oxblood, the whole room suggesting that they should abandon hope, those who enter here.
On the soundtrack we hear Harrison Ford talking about his job as a prosecuting attorney, but as he speaks of the duty of the law to separate the guilty from the innocent, there is little faith in his voice that the task can be done with any degree of certainty.
"Presumed Innocent" has at its core one of the most fundamental fears of civilized man: the fear of being found guilty of a crime one did not commit. That fear is at the heart of more than half of Hitchcock's films, and it is one reason they work for all kinds of audiences. Everybody knows that fear.
This movie is based on a best-selling novel by Scott Turow that became notorious for its explicit sexual content - for the detail in which it examined shocking gynecological evidence - and yet the sex wouldn't have sold many copies without the fear. How do you defend yourself against a charge of rape when you were having an affair with the dead woman, and your fingerprints are on a glass in her apartment, and the phone records reveal that you called her earlier in the evening, and it would appear that your semen has been found at the scene of the crime? This is, as everybody knows by now, the dilemma in which Rusty Sabich finds himself, midway through "Presumed Innocent." Sabich, played by Harrison Ford as a man whose flat voice masks great passions and terrors, plays an assistant state's attorney who is assigned to the murder of a young woman lawyer in his office. Her name was Carolyn Polhemus (Greta Scacchi), and she had the ability to mesmerize men, especially those who could do her some good. Among those men, we discover, was Rusty Sabich himself - and also his boss, State's Attorney Raymond Horgan (Brian Dennehy), who has assigned him to the case.