John Hanlon Reviews

TV Reviews

People vs OJ Simpson Review

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Genre: Drama

Cast: Sarah Paulson, Cuba Gooding Jr., David Schwimmer, John Travolta, Courtney B. Vance

There have been innumerable films made about Jesus’ last days on Earth but there have only been a few made about what came afterwards. Written by Paul Aiello and Kevin Reynolds, stuff the new film Risen attempts to explore those days from the perspective of a tribune named Clavius, viagra approved who serves as Pontius Pilate’s right-hand man.

Played by Joseph Fiennes, information pills Clavius is a stoic soldier who spends his days doing the bidding of Pilate (Peter Firth), the weak-kneed leader who recently sentenced Jesus Christ to death.

The first major task that Pilate gives Clavius in the feature is to ensure that Jesus (Cliff Curtis), who is known in the film by the Hebrew iteration Yeshua, is dead. In one of the film’s most unsettling scenes of brutality, Clavius pokes a spear into Jesus’ side and confirms his passing. It’s only then that the body is removed from the scene for a proper burial.

That isn’t enough for Caiaphas (Stephen Greif), the head priest. Because rumors have been circulating that Jesus could rise from the dead, Caiaphas demands that guards watch over Jesus’ tomb to prevent the disciples from removing the body and arguing that Jesus has risen. Despite this security, Jesus’ body does disappear leading Clavius — alongside a brash apprentice named Lucius (Tom Felton) — to search for the truth about the resurrection.

Told from the point of the non-believing Clavius, the feature takes a more nuanced look at the resurrection. Clavius is like a detective searching for clues about a missing body. He hunts down possible suspects including Mary Magdalene (María Botto) like a detective on Law & Order hunts down suspects. He brings apostles and possible witnesses into his office for interrogations.

In that way, the story brings a unique approach to the material — one that enriches and embraces the Biblical text while expanding on it.

Director Kevin Reynolds accordingly does a strong job showing how Jesus’ resurrection threatened so many public officials in 33 AD. “Without a corpse to prove him dead, we have a potential Messiah,” Pilate states, agreeing with the Pharisees and high priests.

Reynolds also shows a few strong glimpses on how some people only realized Jesus’ importance after the crucifixion. It’s only when Jesus is on the cross that one of the soldiers — who supervises the crucifixion — notes painfully, “This man was innocent.”

It’s true that religious believers will have much to recommend about this film. From the emotional tone surrounding Jesus’ death (his mother’s crying in the background is heart-wrenching) to the depiction of the apostles — who are clearly frightened of what happens next — the story captures key elements of the Bible.

For non-believers though, this film is more than just a simplistic religious film about the followers of Christ. Its main character is a nonbeliever too. He doesn’t believe in miracles or prophesies. He simply believes in what he sees for himself.

Admittedly, the ending does feature a predictable spiritual awakening but even that isn’t handled as blatantly or flagrantly as we’ve seen in other pictures. Religious viewers will find satisfaction in the end here but the story itself is unique and thoughtful enough to merit the interest of nonbelievers.
We all thought we knew the story of O.J. Simpson. In 1994, ambulance
the famed athlete was accused of killing two individuals. He famously fled from police officers in a white Bronco and he was famously found not guilty in the criminal trial that followed. All of these events were captured on camera and broadcast to millions of people so it’s easy to believe that we all know all there is to know about the case.

The new ten-part television series The People vs O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story proves otherwise.

In the show’s opening moments, this site
creators Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski set the stage for the audience. Although it’s easy to think about the Simpson case as an isolated event, visit this
it wasn’t. The case occurred only a few short years after the controversial Rodney King verdict and the riots that ensued from that. There was a long history of racial conflicts in Los Angeles and it was in that environment that Simpson (played here by Cuba Gooding Jr.) was put on trial.

Based on the book by legal expert Jeffrey Toobin, the series focuses on the aftermath of the murders and the eventual trial of Simpson. After three episodes, it’s interesting to note that Simpson’s character often seems relegated to a supporting role here.

The main characters may be Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson), who is prosecuting Simpson, and lead defense attorney Robert Shapiro (John Travolta).

Paulson, in particular, is the stand out here really bringing Clark’s energy and passion to life. Clark is depicted as a driven woman who believes passionately that Simpson committed the two murders and she wants to deliver unimpeachable justice. “We have all the Aces,” she says, “Let’s hold the high ground.” It’s she who slowly realizes that their bulletproof case might be falling apart.

“We have to stop looking at this case as a slam-dunk,” she says at the end of the third episode.

That episode — which astutely explores the legal positioning of the case — really showcases the strength of this series. In the episode, the case takes on a new meaning when race becomes a major factor in it. Near the beginning of the episode, Time Magazine famously prints an issue with a darkened photo of Simpson on it. The doctored picture caused nationwide controversy  and the depiction of that controversy onscreen only foreshadows how fraught with racial tension the trial would ultimately become.

It isn’t just the facts of Simpson’s case that will change the course of the trial. It’s the environment that surrounded the case — a situation that Shapiro and his fellow lawyer Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) seemingly understand before the prosecutorial team does.

With strong writing and great directing, the show really takes advantage of its episodic nature. The producers take their time exploring the context of the trial, which gives the legal decisions a greater nuance and power.

The series does have a few avoidable missteps, including the inclusion of the Kardashian kids, whose father Robert was one of the attorneys on Simpson’s case. At times, the dialogue in those family settings is too spot on and gimmicky to really work. “Fame is fleeting. It’s hollow,” Robert (David Schwimmer) notes in one of the series most cringe-worthy moments.

Aside from small missteps like that though, the series is a powerful and undeniably provocative program that really shows that we might not know as much about this case as we thought we did.

Review by: John Hanlon