Judge Bill Gibron prefers DEVO's theory of De-Evolution.
You can't walk away from the truth—but you can rewrite it.
For many, the definitive dramatic word on the infamous Scopes "Monkey" Trial is Inherit the Wind. Based on the famous court case The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, it took the main players—lawyers Clarence Darrow and Williams Jennings Bryant—and transformed them into fictional icons of philosophical finesse. It was all Bible thumping and pragmatic payback, set within amazing acting and even more impressive speeches. While Scopes was actually found guilty on the charges of teaching evolution, the verdict would stand as a landmark for those who'd argue the separation of Church and State, and more importantly, the distance between science and theology. Even now, some 87 years after the fact, governing bodies are still arguing over the nuances between creationism, Darwin, and the latest scholastic scam, intelligent design. So you'd think that something like Alleged would play perfectly within our current social struggles. Unfortunately, its agenda is so obvious that it ends up reproving Darrow's rationality all over again.
The story, wholly fictional, finds a small-town journalist named Charles Anderson (Nathan West, Miracle) coming to Dayton, Tennessee to be part of the spectacle and circus that is the Scopes story. Under the auspices of the morally questionable columnist H.L. Mencken (Colm Meaney, Get Him to the Greek), our hero gets his chance. While watching the histrionics between flashy front men William Jennings Bryant (Fred D. Thompson, Law and Order) and Clarence Darrow (Brian Dennehy, Tommy Boy) Anderson finds himself torn. Things become even more complicated when his fiancée, Rose (Ashley Johnson, King of the Hill) enters the arena. She challenges his choices, his ideas about race and religion, as well as his loyalty to the clearly manipulative and mean-spirited Mencken.
For those looking for a different perspective on the entire Scopes situation, Alleged is your film. It's like Gods and Generals (the unapologetically pro-South Civil War drama) or the recent Atlas Shrugged: Part One (which misapplied Ayn Rand for a tea party populace). There is nothing wrong with taking up the mantle for the "losing" team, especially when your point is to prove that history has not been kind to your side. But Alleged doesn't offer subtlety or scholarship. Instead, it goes on the attack, and for the most part, the differing ideal provides something novel. Indeed, many have questioned the "solid" science evolution is built upon, especially back in '23. Then, said thinking was even more suspect. Many of the main theories are shot down as shortsighted and overly simplistic, leading to a reasonable conclusion over the pragmatist's position. Today, the tenure of such a strategy would be much less powerful—we've learned a lot in almost a century. But thanks to the differing principles involved, Alleged is at least different. Not necessarily better, but unusual nonetheless.
As a Blu-ray release, Alleged comes with a confusing collection of tech specs. Since it relied on the newfangled Red One camera to create its image, the 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encode looks great. There has been some post-production work to mute the colors and bring about a more "nostalgic" feel, but the overall look of the 1.78:1 presentation is excellent. The sound is another story all together. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is dull and derivative. The dialogue is all up front. The syrupy score fleshes out the rest. No real directional aim or use of the interior or exterior spaces. As for extras, we get a faith-based "Discussion Guide" which is actually nothing more than a screed against Darrow and Mencken (go figure). That's not added content. That's propaganda.
Though the movie does try to force a nauseating "eugenics" subplot on us, the other less sensational aspects of Alleged try to win out. They don't always succeed, but they do make for a meaningful (if clearly one-sided) attempt.
Guilty, but good for the right (emphasis on that political position) minded viewer.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
• Discussion Guide
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