Season 1: The People vs. O. J. Simpson
Season 2: The Assassination of Gianni Versace
From The Ashes Of Tragedy
The Run of His Life
The Dream Team
100% Not Guilty
The Race Card
Marcia, Marcia, Marcia
A Jury in Jail
Manna From Heaven
Is O.J. Simpson a murderer? It’s a question that’s plagued the minds of people since the infamous case occurred back in 1994 and it’s something that continues to get people talking today. American Crime Story’s first season is a dramatized recreation of that case, playing out as a courtroom drama with solid acting and some tightly refined camera work. While Cuba Gooding Jr. doesn’t quite pull off the physique and towering demeanor needed to portray the famous football player, there’s enough star power here to make up for it. The tense and dramatic way this case unfolds is something that’s really endearing and partly the reason this series works as well as it does.
The story begins with the reveal of two dead bodies outside O.J. Simpson’s house by a man walking his dog in the middle of the night. From here, things progress rapidly as the police suspect Simpson is to blame, quickly putting together an overwhelming amount of evidence against the star. After a slow-speed getaway, things slow down a little as O.J. is put in jail and the case begins to take shape as the defense and prosecution ready their arguments. Despite a staggering amount of evidence against him, the defense play on Simpson’s race, stirring up an already volatile atmosphere after racially charged riots several years prior. What transpires from here is an enthralling and dangerous game of emotion VS rationale as the court case reaches fever pitch. While many may know the outcome of this one already, the emotionally charged finale is every bit as fiery and intense as one may expect.
Along with the slick editing and rapid cuts between the defense and prosecution, American Crime Story does well to keep the dramatic tension high with zoomed shots and a slew of impressive cuts. It really helps drive home the intensity at play here and the racial undercurrent of hatred spewing through America during this time is depicted surprisingly well through these ten episodes. There’s a racially divided line that’s drawn early on and from this moment onward, it’s only more hostile the longer the case goes on for.
This thematically relevant message is backed up by some really solid performances from the lead and supporting cast. It helps that there’s a smattering of star power at play but between John Travolta, Sterling K. Brown, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Sarah Paulson, it’s hard to nail down just one stand out performer here. There’s some surprisingly touching moments for each of these characters too and even O.J. gets some moments where you empathise with his situation but at the same time there’s still an air of uneasiness that comes from his scenes. It’s magical stuff, it really is, and when these actors are firing on all cylinders it really makes this show stand out.
Although the series is a tad too long at times, for the most part American Crime Story moves along at a decent pace with a good drive and a strong thematic core. Excellent acting and solid cinematography help too and these combine to make the controversial story of O.J. Simpson something that’s been brought to life in the most mature and realistic manner possible. If you’re a fan of courtroom dramas or the crime genre in general and haven’t already, check this show out. It’s well worth your time and despite a little respite midway through the show, there’s a good pacing to this one that keeps you engrossed right through to the dramatic finale.
Verdict - 8.5/10