Presumed Innocent review: A Masterpiece of Plotting

Presumed Innocent review: A Masterpiece of Plotting

Presumed Innocent (AppleTV+)

Rating:

Falsely accused of murder, jobless, sleeping on the sofa… the only way life could get any worse for lawyer Rusty Sabich is if Taylor Swift wrote a song about him.

And that’s not impossible. Actor Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays Rusty in the legal thriller Presumed Innocent, is an ex-boyfriend of Ms Swift and rumoured to be the target of her 2012 break-up song All Too Well.

Based on a mega-selling novel by Scott Turow, this mini-series is a masterpiece of plotting. Each twist piles up another layer of incriminating evidence against Rusty, so that soon everyone is doubting his innocence: his wife, his children, his oldest friend, even the viewers.

The victim is his closest colleague in the Chicago prosecuting attorney’s office, a single mother called Carolyn Polhemus. Rusty is assigned to the investigation, and neglects to tell police he was having an affair with her.

Presumed Innocent review: A Masterpiece of Plotting

Actor Jake Gyllenhaal (pictured) plays Rusty in the legal thriller Presumed Innocent. The victim is Rusty’s closest colleague in the Chicago prosecuting attorney’s office, a single mother called Carolyn Polhemus, played by Renate Reinsve (right)

Based on a mega-selling novel by Scott Turow, this mini-series is a masterpiece of plotting. Each twist piles up another layer of incriminating evidence against Rusty, played by Gyllenhaal

Based on a mega-selling novel by Scott Turow, this mini-series is a masterpiece of plotting. Each twist piles up another layer of incriminating evidence against Rusty, played by Gyllenhaal

His wife, Barbara (Ruth Negga), knew about Rusty’s infidelity — though not that he was still obsessed with Carolyn, to the point of stalking her.

The book was condensed into a Hollywood movie starring Harrison Ford in 1990 but this eight-part serial has far more time to build the tension and relish each fresh revelation, building to a cliffhanger at the end of each weekly episode.

Each one subverts what we think we know about Rusty, even when we think nothing else can surprise us. Shock one: Carolyn was pregnant with his baby. Shock two: he was with her on the night she died . . . and her son has video to prove it. Shock three: Rusty’s own teenage son was also outside the house that night.

All this disguises the basic fact that Presumed Innocent has dated badly. It belongs to an era when single women having affairs with married men were automatically treated as culprits in their own murders. Whoever is ‘innocent’ here, it isn’t Carolyn, discovered naked, bloodied and trussed up in her own living room.

Killer or not, Rusty is a creep, and his penchant for violent sex only makes it worse. But viewers are expected to agree that this self-confessed stalker is a worthy hero, whose only crime was to love a woman too intensely.

Strong supporting performances help us to ignore these misgivings. O-T Fagbenle is superb as the newly appointed district attorney, a weasel of a man who drawls his words like Truman Capote.

Peter Sarsgaard, who is married to Gyllenhaal’s actress sister, Maggie, plays Rusty’s ex-colleague and worst enemy, Tommy Molto, a man who suffered years of professional humiliation as the office underling and is now out to extract every drop of revenge.

Ruth Negga (left) plays the role of Barbara, Rusty's wife

Ruth Negga (left) plays the role of Barbara, Rusty’s wife

Peter Sarsgaard plays Rusty's ex-colleague and worst enemy, Tommy Molto

Peter Sarsgaard plays Rusty’s ex-colleague and worst enemy, Tommy Molto

O-T Fagbenle (left) is superb as the newly appointed district attorney, a weasel of a man who drawls his words like Truman Capote

O-T Fagbenle (left) is superb as the newly appointed district attorney, a weasel of a man who drawls his words like Truman Capote

Bill Camp (right) is disconcertingly convincing as Rusty's former boss Raymond, now his lawyer, who looks like a heart attack wrapped in a blubber duvet

Bill Camp (right) is disconcertingly convincing as Rusty’s former boss Raymond, now his lawyer, who looks like a heart attack wrapped in a blubber duvet

And Bill Camp is disconcertingly convincing as Rusty’s former boss Raymond, now his lawyer, who looks like a heart attack wrapped in a blubber duvet.

The first page of Turow’s novel tells us that everyone who meets Raymond thinks, ‘He does not look well,’ and that was my reaction, too. Give that man a salad.

Seal of approval of the night: The first Royal Warrant for Britain’s snootiest supermarket was awarded in 1928 by Queen Mary, we learned on Waitrose: Trouble In The Aisles? (Ch5). The King’s great-grandmother was a great fan of their honey soap . . . bubbles with a buzz. 

Comments

No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *