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The Confession
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Confession More at IMDbPro »

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21 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

Film Industry Vindicated

Author: James Talley (jtalley4n6@aol.com) from Salina, KS
24 August 1999

Just when you tire of seeing seamy, disspiriting tales of outlawry and big-budget, small-brained extravaganzas, a film like The Confession comes along to, well, renew your faith that the medium of film can deliver something uplifting and thoughtful without getting smarmy and preachy.

Kinglsey is simply a masterful actor no matter what he does. Watch his every gesture and expression, for each is intentional. Baldwin's social conscience tends to steer him to movies with messages, and this is no exception. Viewers should go in expecting actual morals to the story--such a rarity these days.

Baldwin plays a hot-shot defense lawyer with chances at and aspirations to becoming district attorney. He's slime. Slick, sophisticated slime, but slime nonetheless. A much better portrayal of slime than we saw with Travolta's personal injury attorney in A Civil Action, for instance, probably because we SEE Baldwin's slime, while Travolta's is merely described. Kingsley plays a devout Jew and CFO of a major corporation.

When Kingsley commits a triple homicide (no spoiler, that; it's on the back of the box) and becomes Baldwin's client (retainer paid by Sanders, Kingsley's boss), we have a surprisingly subtle film about doing what's right, knowing what's right, human law and God's Law: the good man who does wrong defended by the bad man who never gets caught.

It's a moral movie without moralizing--at least as far as Hollywood gets. Kingsley and his family are the definition of upstanding and decent. As Baldwin enters their orbit, his own recessive goodness is evoked, while his dominant corruption simultaneously taints Kingsley's family. The relationships are complex, and not because of any cheap tricks of screenwriting or silence, but because of the characters themselves. The right thing to do recedes from initial clarity (for each main character) and gets lost in a multitude of possible "right" things: what is right for Irving, for Kingsley, for justice, for Sanders, for Baldwin's career, for Baldwin's emerging desire to be one of the good guys.

It's a religious movie, yet not a preachy one. We see Kingsley's devotion to God as he understands it. We have Kevin Conway ostensibly playing Baldwin's co-counsel and investigator, but in reality serving as his conscience and confessor (there's even a baptism-with-bourbon scene in a bar--both odd and provocative). We have the rigid orthodoxy portrayed ably by Kingsley, and the more human ethical luke-warmth of Irving.

What matters most is that soon into the film we really know the three main characters, from multiple angles, not simply in religious, professional, or ethical categories. And yet we know not what they'll do next because the story captures them in a moment of rapid change, growth and crisis.

Had this been a small independent film, the second hour and the secondary plot (a corporate/power-politics mystery) would have been lopped off, but this Hollywood touch doesn't get in the way.

Thematically, one lens through which to view this is the battle between corruption and saintliness. We have Baldwin's corruption as a defense attorney, which, to some extent, is actually virtuous for a defense attorney--he gets his clients off. We have the police department's corruption in the early scenes. References to, if not corruption, then compromise, in the DA's office in plea bargains and decisions on the death penalty. Legal corruption in extremely ex parte assignations. Marital corruption and two different responses to it. Corruption of the common good for private gain.

And yet we are shown the flipside. Baldwin is praised as a man of conscience while those bestowing the compliment are themselves so corrupt the word sounds phony on their lips. We see bureaucratic corruption yet also the wrongness of vigilantism as retribution. We see the insanity of assuming that a man who admits guilt and welcomes punishment must be insane--lying and refusing to accept punishment being the "sane" response. We see Baldwin argue with Kingsley about God's law and justice, both when Baldwin plays the sophistic devil's advocate and later, when the discussion comes to have meaning for him. We see the possible foolish consistency in Kingsley devoting himself with such absolutist fervor to his work, his son and his God--while neglecting his wife...and yet we see Irving's foolish consistency in defining herself completely by reference to her son and husband.

The ending is a bit dramatic for the rest of the film but there is no sugar-coated salvation. We get to see the truly vile punished. And while the conscientious sinners also suffer a penalty or two, it's a just, if sad, penalty all told. There's a redemptive feeling to this movie, though finding evidence of concrete redemption is hard. The closest character to redemption is Baldwin, but his fate is by no means secure. Perhaps the redemption consists in the main characters emerging from the swamp of corruption alive and wiser, if somewhat less saintly for it all. Maybe it's in the relative lack of trumpet fanfare: a resolution that isn't exactly happy but just, leaving the players capable of contentment and continued life.

Amy Irving is amazing, though she peters out near the end. Kingsley is, well, a god. Baldwin has a lot of silent staring whilst others blather and exposit, but it never rises to annoyance. Sanders does well as a slick, ultra-rich CENSORED.

Some may criticize the film for beating us over the head with airheaded religion--but this signals a fixation on the obvious that blinds them to the subtle. There are no easy answers here, and that's rare.

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20 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Not to be passed over

6/10
Author: Keith F. Hatcher from La Rioja, Spain
16 May 2004



Normally films with Alec Baldwin, or practically any others of the Baldwin clan, would generally have me reaching for the remote so as to change channels. But, Ben Kingsley.......... so I decided to settle down and watch `The Confession'. And I am glad I did so.

This is a pretty serious court-case, with some excellent scenes, and some good dialogues at times. If Baldwin is better than in anything else of his I have had (mostly) the misfortune of seeing, here he is really more than acceptable, even good. And Ben Kingsley is better: as good as anything since `Gandhi' (qv). `The Confession' shows clearly that neither of these actors need films of violence to keep intelligent spectators attentive: this film works, with good chemistry between the two men. The only weakness is that Baldwin just has to have a bit of an affair with...... no, I am not going to say with whom.

If like me you are not exactly a Baldwin fan, do not pass this film over. It is a well-carried out dramatic piece which is worth your time.

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17 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

A mystery of ideas

8/10
Author: bencharif from New York, N. Y.
30 March 2001

I'm not a particularly avid follower of movie actors, or of movies as they're released, which probably explains why I found "The Confession"--and Alec Baldwin's performance in it--so surprising. I'd heard nothing about this film and saw it quite by accident.

Movies like "The Confession"--that is, movies with moral dilemmas at their center ("It's not hard to do the right thing; it's hard to know what the right thing is" is the central dilemma of the film)--often bypass the ambiguities of complex moral questions in favor of a single answer everyone can love.

In this film there are moral ambiguities aplenty, and the film deals honestly with the difficulty of facing those ambiguities head-on and taking a clear position. Alec Baldwin's performance was startling and complex--a beautiful thing to watch. The supporting cast, including Amy Irving, was top-notch, too.

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11 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Positive review

9/10
Author: joe-230 from Amherst, MA
19 January 1999

The Confession is a moving film about an attorney's struggle to regain his soul. That sounds awfully high-flown, but the screenwriter and the filmmakers handle it with grace and economy. Alec Baldwin and Amy Irving make the material emotional without being melodramatic. There's also a nice legal mystery to go along with the characters' moral journeys.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

" Vengeance is reality with the volume turned up "

8/10
Author: thinker1691 from USA
18 July 2012

Sol Yurick acquired a great deal of experience while working the streets of New York. His most famous story which received wide acclaim is called 'The Warriors.' Now director Daniel Hugh Jones initiates this fascinating Yurick novel entitled " The Confession. " It's an important story taken from the pages of todays headlines. Harry Fertig (Ben Kingsley) is a well respected, devoted and loving father who's six year old son is suffering from acute appendicitis. Upon rushing him to the Emergency ward of the hospital, he is told his son who needs immediate attention will have to sit, wait and fill out forms. The result; his son dies. Concluding someone has to be held responsible, the grieving father sets out to punish the hospital receiving attendant, (Eric Malabar), the admitting nurse (Becky Ann Baker) and Dr. Mason Gillett. (Mark Ethan) all for putting their own troubles ahead of an emergency patient. After his son's death, Fertig murders all three and then surprisingly enough, surrenders to the police. While awaiting trial for murder, Fertig is given a public defender whom he promptly fires. However, his new defense lawyer Roy Bleakie (Alec Baldwin) is a well connected, ambitious attorney who is instructed by his client to plead him Guilty! With many rich and powerful people concerned his client might be given the death penalty, Bleakie is ready to plead him Not Guilty by reason of insanity. However, Fertig insists, he knew what he did was wrong and is willing to accept punishment, even if it means being executed. The story is intriguing from it's onset and the collected cast does a marvelous job of imbuing understanding, sympathy and deep emotional drama to the characters. All one needs to do is live in our speedy, fast food, hectic style of life to realize what this case is all about. Anyone who has ever been run-over by the uncaring freeway of ambiguity we've created or have experienced the churning frustration we daily endure, know what this movie is all about. The result; this film has become a Classic and is easily recommended to anyone who cares. ****

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10 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Thought provoking, quite engaging, I love Ben Kingsley's performance

Author: drt444 (drt444@yahoo.com) from Baltimore
18 May 2003

I was surprised to see viewers rating of 6 out o 10. I saw it on Cable & got glued to the TV, if not throughout, then at least for the most part. As always, I was impressed by Ben Kingsley's performance: so genuine & magnetic.

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

It's not difficult to do what's right, it's difficult to know what is right .....

8/10
Author: brianoh2 from New Zealand
23 February 2008

This is a movie about a moral man (Kingsley) trapped in an immoral world. When his son is ill and needing urgent medical attention, the actions of the medical staff lead to serious consequences for all, and Kingsley's character requires legal representation. Baldwin is appointed his lawyer and his experience with Kingsley changes his values. Baldwin had become corrupted by the legal system and was no longer interested in right or wrong, just winning. Kingsley's moral values of right and wrong and admitting our guilt and paying for our wrongs changes Baldwin for the "better". Baldwin's character now has a new set of moral values and this has disastrous consequences for other parties.

I thought this was a movie with a strong moral message and it was well acted by Baldwin and Kingsley for the most part. At times it got a little too much listening to Kingsley's explanations of why we should be honest. He came across as a bit of a saint, and in reality this never happens, just in words. All in all, I thought it well worth watching. In my book an 8 (from 10).

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Confession is Heavenly Bound ***1/2

9/10
Author: edwagreen from United States
12 July 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Ben Kingsley and Amy Irving are becoming famous playing Jewish people. Kingsley played Dr. Herman Tarnower in that awful HBO film about him and Ms. Irving was memorable in "Yentl."

Amy lights the sabbath candle as their little boy coughs up a storm and runs a high fever. Desperate, they take the child to the hospital where they are ignored. This picture is excellent in the sense that it depicts too well what goes on in so many of our emergency rooms.

The child dies and in his anger, Harry Fertig (Kingsley) kills the 3 people that he believed were responsible for doing nothing.

You would think that the movie would settle down into the moral dilemma whether or not Fertig was justified in the actions he took. No, it is much more than that. Baldwin, who defends Fertig, shall eventually fall for his wife and uncover why Fertig's firm wants him to cop an insanity plea. They have been involved in infesting the waters of N.Y. with toxic poisons. Baldwin wants to run for District Attorney. At the end, he does the right thing but ultimately ruins his political career.

A wonderful film detailing moral values in a society desperate for them.

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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A story that made the actors rise to the occasion

7/10
Author: Walter Morton from USA
12 September 1999

I believe this was Alec Baldwin's most believable work in years. I was disappointed with Ben Kingsly, but anybody else would have been worse.

It is always good to see a movie that presents an idea that is original. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe this is a remake of a 50 year old movie, but I didn't see that one.

Rent it if you are an adult with a child.

7/10

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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

i love this film

8/10
Author: edumacated from United States
19 July 2010

this was obviously a director's effort to make a Lumet movie--that being a socially conscious work where a flawed or culturally influenced man makes the choice to do, or not to do the "right thing", depending on his social and inner conscience.

and in this respect, the Lumet model is seen as the quintessential new york movie, with new york upper west side Jewish social issues. not to say that their issues don't apply to the rest of us, that is if you've ever had enough sensitivity to understand the elitism and influence that resonates from the new york social and intellectual elite, and from there through Hollywood, then you will understand how they hold themselves above the rest of us, and any who understand their power are most often deathly scared to illuminate this reality to the point where i doubt they will approve the posting of this review.

all this being said, it was a nice effort. what at first appears to be a story about the new york JJ elite trying to protect one of its own, becomes a greater story about that which is greater than protecting one's clan--and that is pure greed. all in all, a nice job. i wish there were more movies like this from this demographic and less Adam Sandler. but that is natural selection.

and when i was more explicit about the root of this demographic, this review was pulled.

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