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Presumed Innocent, Apple TV+ review - you read the book and saw the movie | reviews, news & interviews

Presumed Innocent, Apple TV+ review - you read the book and saw the movie...

Presumed Innocent, Apple TV+ review - you read the book and saw the movie...

Jake Gyllenhaal stars in absorbing TV adaptation of Scott Turow's legal thriller

Jake Gyllenhaal as Rusty Sabich, Renate Reinsve as Carolyn Polhemus

Scott Turow published his cunningly-wrought legal thriller in 1987, and Alan J Pakula’s powerful movie version, starring Harrison Ford, appeared in 1990. Enough time has elapsed, perhaps, for Apple TV’s revised version of Presumed Innocent for the streaming age.

There’s plenty to like about this eight-episode reincarnation, which casts Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead role of Rusty Sabich, a Chicago prosecutor who seems to have enough on his plate coping with the poisonous internal politics of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, even before he has to undergo the ordeal of being tried for an especially brutal and grotesque murder. Worse yet, the murder victim, found bound and hideously beaten, was a professional colleague with whom Sabich had been conducting an exceedingly unwise affair.

Intriguingly, Apple has made available to reviewers the first seven of the eight episodes, but the eighth, which will – we have to assume – reveal Rusty’s guilt or otherwise remains tantalisingly witheld. Which prompts speculation about whether they’ve dared to change the original ending, which, as many readers and viewers know, delivered the killer punch in Turow’s story.Presumed Innocent, Apple TV Quite a few other aspects of the book have been altered in this version (which has been masterminded and predominantly written by David E. Kelley, veteran of Chicago Hope, Ally McBeal, Big Little Lies etc), notably the tangled relationships between several characters. And Judge Larren Lyttle has been re-gendered as Laryn Lyttle (Noma Dumezweni).

The drama here homes in on how Rusty’s sexual obsession with the dead woman, Carolyn Polhemus (Renate Reinsve), has cast a poisonous cloud over his relationship with his wife Barbara (Ruth Negga) and their two children, reducing him to an emotional wreck with a dangerously short fuse. His penchant for explosive outbursts plays badly in a trial in which the victim has been battered to death, and when a heap of circumstantial evidence (text messages, phone calls, photographs, DNA) has already given his defence a sizeable mountain to climb.

The other major pole of the story concerns the backstage shenanigans in the prosecutor’s office. Peter Sarsgaard is superb (though utterly loathsome) as Tommy Molto, a resentful professional rival to Sabich who’s determined to make a big splash by getting him convicted. Saarsgard (pictured above with O-T Fagbenle) successfully conveys the idea of Molto as a socially-toxic creep suffering from crippling self-esteem issues, while seething with resentment at how Ms Polhemus brushed him aside and made a beeline for Sabich.Presumed Innocent, Apple TV Molto is the creature of Nico Della Guardia, a ruthlessly ambitious pole-climber who’s aiming to become State’s Attorney. He’s rendered in flesh-creeping detail by O-T Fagbenle, deploying an inventive arsenal of tics, smirks and wheedling innuendos as he prepares to throw Sabich (or anybody else who gets in his way) to the wolves in the service of embellishing his own political credentials.

There’s more potential awards-season action from Bill Camp’s splendid turn as Raymond Horgan, a bitter enemy of Della Guardia who’s now heading Sabich’s defence in court. Sabich’s evasiveness and enthusiasm for apparently suicidal courtroom tactics are driving him nuts, but he’s a friend in need indeed. Camp has some nice scenes with his wife Lorraine (Elizabeth Marvel, his real-life wife, both pictured above) – she wants him to give up all this stress and hassle and move to Florida, but he retorts that “Florida is for dead people”.

It’s a little regrettable that Gyllenhaal’s role makes him spend most of his time in a state of sweaty desperation as he sees his life collapsing in bits in around him, and fans of Pakula’s movie are going to miss the charismatic presence of Raul Julia as Machiavellian defence lawyer Sandy Stern and John Spencer’s portrayal of investigator Dan Lipranzer. Nonetheless, it all adds up to a seductive ride that steadily turns up the heat after a slightly sluggish start.

It all adds up to a seductive ride that steadily turns up the heat


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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