I finally had a bit of time for a longer movie, and I said that a good choice would be Witness for the Prosecution. The director of this movie is one that I am fond of, namely Billy Wilder. If you have not heard of him, maybe these titles sound familiar: Sunset Boulevard, The Apartment, or Double Indemnity. I enjoyed all of them, and I’m happy that I can add to my list of favorites Witness for the Prosecution too!
Before jumping into the review, I will provide background regarding the film. If you like a well-written book or a scenario, you should know that the writer who came with this idea is Agatha Christie. Witness for the Prosecution is based on the play with the same name. So be ready for twists, witty characters, and a charming atmosphere.
What’s so good about it?
#1st thing: the story
When Agatha Christie is on board, I am pretty sure that a good story may come to light. The story revolves around a barrister who tries to defend a man who is the principal suspect in a murder case. However, his wife makes quite the show, and everything is doubtful. Are the circumstantial proofs enough? Who is the real murderer?
The characters are so well-rounded, and charming through their smartness and humor. You can see that some of them have known each other for a long time, and everything is so funny and familiar. But then to see the sheer joy of people when they do something that they like is cute! Or when someone comes back to the office and other people are making heartwarming gestures for them.
#2nd thing: the atmosphere
I do not recall any other director who can balance so well humor with suspense. I think Wilder does it best here (taking into account the other films that I’ve watched, maybe I’ll change my opinion later). The atmosphere is so well-crafted. When the tension gets too high, here comes a funny line or the charming nurse with her babbling (the barrister is ill, so he has a nurse who takes care of him).
The constant worry that the barrister is ill, and you don’t know if he’s going to faint or not, adds a lot to the story and the atmosphere. Not only that you get so involved in the case that you are trying to solve it, but you are also paying attention to the health of the barrister.
Witness for the Prosecution is one of those films that make you feel like you are a character. And it gives you something to work on so that you do not look on the phone or start talking with someone.
#4th thing: camerawork
It feels real. The movie is black and white, and the lighting and shadows are stunning. I’m telling you, the difference between a movie that was filmed in black and white, and one that is edited to be black and white is huge. And here you can see the difference quite well. The close-ups are stunning! The shots from the courtroom are good.
What is not-so-good about it?
I find it hard to pinpoint a flaw or something that might make it not so enjoyable. That comes to personal preference, but you might find the acting not outstanding (but not all the acting should be outstanding, it depends on what you want to film). Maybe the camerawork is not that good (but then again, that depends on what you like).
The camerawork is not artistic, using long takes and all those techniques. It is rather dynamic, subject-oriented, with good shadow and lighting.
So should I watch or not?
By all means, you should! It is a 2hours long film with twists, suspense, and charming characters. If you like murder cases, watch it. Do you look for something thought-provoking? Watch it. Do you want to start watching old movies? Witness for the Prosecution is good introduction.
If you are a fan of 12 Angry men, do check it out! It might be just right for you.
More mystery? Then check out The Vanishing too!