Sidney Lumet is a director I have often wanted to explore more, ever since Network became one of my all time favorites when I finally saw it a decade ago, around the same time the fantastic Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead was released. Having finally watched this acclaimed classic, I wish I had gotten off my ass sooner. This is a tense, frantic film with fully-realized characters and dark humor led by an electric performance by Al Pacino, in turns quietly menacing and fiercely explosive. He is a man on the edge, having been pushed to his limit by the mounting pressures of every day forces. This makes even a bank robber stealing money for his gay lover’s sex change operation relatable to the audience. He anchors what could be a runaway sideshow and maintains a grounded sense of reality. Pierson’s sharp, raw script and Lumet’s steady, confident direction keep everything natural, despite the grandiose nature of a hostage crisis playing out on live TV. The spotlight does something to everyone (a big theme in Network), and everyone in this story is affected by the unsuspected fame in differen ways, which is entirely believable. People are flawed, yet capable of redemption, despite their drastic, negative actions. Like an armed assailant who still cares about an aging security guard’s asthma. This one is gritty and great!