Frank Galvin (Paul Newman) has all the odds stacked against him. His career is heading nowhere fast, a wrecked personal life, his legal partner has had enough, and a whisky habit that could kickstart an economy. Stanley Ellin in The New York Times Book Review wrote that "the story, digging deep into the mysteries of medical, legal and clerical practice, has everything going for it, and makes dramatically potent use of each element."
With near zero preparation, Frank takes on the might of St Catherine's hospital, two eminent doctors, the trial judge, and a slick city legal team headed by Ed `prince of darkness' Concannon (James Mason). The case: A woman is in a coma after a routine delivery went wrong, and the outcome depends on a key witness who won't testify, and Frank doesn't know why.
This courtroom drama involves you on every level. You feel you need Frank to win, yet the despair of the patient's family is your despair. In a sense, justice itself is on trial. Does everyone and every principle have a price? Can a jury be trusted to see the issues in a complex case?
It is gut-wrenching when we finally realise Laura (Charlotte Rampling) isn't all she seems, the implication is she motivated him to win ( `I don't do failure!') but even so, we want things to work out for her and Frank. He may be reprieved as a lawyer, but his personal life will have to wait a little longer!