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Presumed Innocent Review: Jake Gyllenhaal Shines in Apple TV+’s Thriller

Apple TV+’s adaptation of “Presumed Innocent” brings Scott Turow’s 1987 novel to the small screen featuring Jake Gyllenhaal as Rusty Sabich, a chief deputy prosecutor entangled in a complex legal drama following the murder of his colleague and lover, Carolyn Polhemus. This series is penned by legal drama maestro David E. Kelley and produced by J.J. Abrams, offers a fresh take on the classic story, different from the 1990 film adaptation starring Harrison Ford.

Presumed Innocent Review: Jake Gyllenhaal Shines in Apple TV+’s Thriller

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“Presumed Innocent” was originally a novel by Scott Turow, released in 1987. The book is a complex legal thriller that goes into the life of Rusty Sabich, a prosecutor accused of murdering his colleague and lover, Carolyn Polhemus.

The novel was adapted into a film starring Harrison Ford, which brought a wave of Chicago-centric legal dramas. David E. Kelley’s eight-part series for Apple TV+ attempts to bring the story to contemporary audiences, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Rusty Sabich.

Rusty Sabich, a deputy district attorney in Chicago, becomes the prime suspect in the murder of Carolyn Polhemus, a fellow prosecutor and his lover.

The Presumed Innocent story follows Rusty’s quest to clear his name while struggling with the repercussions on his personal and professional life.

The Presumed Innocent series features Rusty’s wife, Barbara (Ruth Negga), their children and a slew of colleagues, including District Attorney Raymond Horgan (Bill Camp) and rivals like Nico Della Guardia (O-T Fagbenle) and Tommy Molto (Peter Sarsgaard).

Gyllenhaal portrays Rusty with charm and moral ambiguity, embodying a man torn between his personal flaws and professional integrity.

Negga’s portrayal of Barbara adds depth to the character, showcasing her struggle between loyalty to her family and dealing with her husband’s betrayal.

The Presumed Innocent series features strong performances from the supporting cast including Renate Reinsve as Carolyn, who despite a limited role.

One of the major improvements in this adaptation is the increased focus on character development, especially for the female characters.

Barbara’s motivations and emotions are more thoroughly explored making her a more compelling character than in previous iterations.

The Presumed Innocent series captures the intricate legal and personal dynamics of the story. It balances the tension of the murder investigation with the unraveling of Rusty’s personal life.

The Presumed Innocent series manages to retain the dark, suspenseful tone of the original novel, creating a sense of impending doom and uncertainty that keeps the audience engaged.

The Presumed Innocent series struggles to resonate with contemporary issues. References to Chicago’s crime rates and the challenges faced by Rusty’s biracial children feel superficial and lack meaningful integration into the narrative.

The Presumed Innocent series stretches the source material to fit an eight-episode format, leading to unnecessary subplots and filler content.

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This detracts from the central story and disrupts the pacing. The portrayal of Chicago feels inauthentic, relying heavily on Los Angeles locations and second-unit footage. This diminishes the sense of place that was integral to the original story.

Kelley’s adaptation gives more screen time and depth to female characters, attempting to address past criticisms of misogyny.

Barbara’s character is particularly enriched offering a more balanced perspective on her relationship with Rusty.

The Presumed Innocent series introduces new twists and legal complications to extend the narrative, but these additions sometimes veer into the realm of melodrama.

Directors Anne Sewitsky and Greg Yaitanes maintain a brisk pace, but the series occasionally suffers from clichéd visual tropes such as overused rain scenes and awkward drone shots.

The Presumed Innocent series’ visual style is consistent with the washed-out aesthetic typical of many Apple TV+ productions, which some viewers may find too somber or monotonous.

Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Rusty is a departure from Ford’s stoic version. He embodies a desperate man struggling with the consequences of his actions.

Rusty’s multifaceted character is at the heart of the series, oscillating between affability and narcissism, which keeps the audience guessing about his true nature.

Reinsve plays the ill-fated colleague and lover of Rusty. Her murder sets off the central conflict of the story.

Negga’s performance as Rusty’s wife brings depth and complexity, it shows the emotional turmoil she experiences due to her husband’s infidelity and the legal battle.

Rodriguez is depicted as a thoughtful and capable investigator contributing to the series’ portrayal of strong female characters.

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Sarsgaard portrays the aggressive prosecutor eager to convict Rusty, adding a layer of tension and drama to the story.

The Presumed Innocent story opens in a serene Chicago setting with Rusty enjoying a day with his children. This tranquility is shattered when he learns of Carolyn’s murder. Rusty’s life quickly spirals out of control as he becomes the prime suspect in the case.

Initially tasked with investigating the murder, Rusty’s position becomes precarious when a new District Attorney, Nico Della Guardia, and his deputy, Tommy Molto, take over the case. Rusty’s frantic attempts to evade suspicion lead to erratic behavior.

The Presumed Innocent series excels in exploring the intricacies of each character, particularly through scenes like Barbara’s therapy sessions and the Sabich children’s reactions to their father’s scandal.

Unlike many narratives where family members serve as mere backdrops, here, they are central to the unfolding drama, making their experiences and perspectives integral to the story.

David E. Kelley’s expertise in legal dramas shines through, offering a detailed portrayal of the prosecuting attorney’s office and the complex politics within.

The female characters in this adaptation are portrayed as multidimensional and to the plot, in contrast to the 1990 film, which was criticized for its sexist undertones.

Carolyn, Barbara, and Det. Rodriguez are depicted as intelligent and emotionally complex individuals navigating the fallout from Rusty’s actions.

The Presumed Innocent series adopts a pulpy, old-fashioned approach to courtroom drama characterized by dramatic scenes and emotional stakes.

While this adds excitement, it sometimes borders on excess. The florid characterizations and intense scenarios contribute to the series’ appeal but may also feel over-the-top to some viewers.

With an eight-episode format, the series takes its time to go into character backstories and dynamics before diving into the courtroom drama.

Some argue that this pacing is a double-edged sword providing depth but also dragging in parts.

Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Rusty is less sympathetic than Ford’s, which may polarize audiences familiar with the original film.

The Presumed Innocent series takes creative liberties with the source material, which some may find refreshing, while purists might prefer a more faithful adaptation.

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