Synopsis by Paul Brenner
Sidney Lumet directed this film version of E.L. Doctorow's novel The Book of Daniel (scripted by Doctorow) that deals in a thinly veiled (although dispassionate way) with the Rosenberg spy case of the 1950s, as seen through the eyes of their children. The Rosenbergs are the Isaacsons here, and the first image of the film is a close-up of their son Daniel's (Timothy Hutton) eyes as he recites a dictionary definition of the word "electrocution." Daniel becomes a detective as he seeks out friends and relations of his parents -- Paul (Mandy Patinkin) and Rochelle (Lindsay Crouse) -- to discover some meaning from his parents' conviction as Russian spies and their execution in the electric chair during the communist paranoia of the 1950s. Daniel is prompted to investigate the past by the near-suicide of his hysterical sister Susan (Amanda Plummer). The film weaves back and forth in time, recalling the period from the 1930s to the 1950s. In a strangely uninvolving way, Lumet's film takes no point of view, the only emotion derived from the almost continuous sounds of Paul Robeson's singing on the soundtrack.
espionage, execution, anti-Communism, Cold-War, electric-chair, family-tragedy, Red-Scare, spy