Considering the idea of the masks we wear, I was reminded of this exceptional and underrated thriller the other day.
Ostensibly a Richard Gere vehicle, I ignored Primal Fear on release and caught it on television one day, and was absolutely spellbound by it. He’s a slick lawyer, and Ed Norton is his shy, shuttering client accused of the brutal murder of a priest. Gere takes the case because one look at Aaron tells you he just isn’t capable of murder: it’s an easy win. However, Aaron has a secret.
The labyrinthine plot reveals that Aaron has multiple personality disorder, and his murderous alter-ego is the violent, sadistic Roy.
It is up to the cynical lawyer to prove his client innocent by reason of insanity, in one of the most gripping courtroom dramas I’ve seen. Then-unknown Norton easily steals the film from the high-profile cast with an absolutely astonishing performance.
However, it’s the ending of the film that is truly unforgettable – both beautifully written and finely acted.