As a TV movie, it's incredible. The script did a splendid job, making a hard to forget experience. The lines are perfect, the details are insightful, and the case is shown extremely effective. It gives us many events, points of view, and characters in a classy breathless way, showing Italy vs. mafia in the first half of the 1980s, exposing how the mob bought all; the ministry of justice, the parliament, and even the church.
As for the direction, I was amazed. Not too many "based on true story" TV movies got that concern. Look at the clothes, the cars' brands, the haircuts.. the accuracy is outstanding. For instance, the movie's first sequence; the pre-credits one that takes place in the 1970s, is clever to a degree that forces you to swear that that was made in the real 1970s (otherwise, it's a stock shot). The movie is intense, having a non-stop energy as the same as its main character. There are so many good moments, and simple yet powerful artistic touches. And I just can't forget the final assassination scene; that was richly done and unforgettably shocking. By the way, in the real murder, 350 kg of dynamite were used.
The production values are above average. HBO made it look like any big cinematic movie made by independent studio. I think with another, more bankable, cast, this could have made it to the theaters easily. The music glorifies the title's character, mirroring his loftiness, in the same time it has a sad and grieving feeling to it. (F. Murray Abraham) reproves again how charismatic he is, and the script gave him a super role; the noble gangster, the wounded father, the star witness, the lord who's going to live lowly because of his confession, and the literally "wise" guy who his last words are: "Love is the only thing that matters at the end". I just didn't like the shot in which he hides his sudden tears while remembering the murder of his 2 sons; this second looked fake.
Still, what could be more dazzling than the hero himself was the *real* hero (Giovanni Falcone). His courage is historical, and his struggle is inspiring. Very few characters of this kind you would meet in real life, so making a movie about him is rare and desired. It is unbelievable biography that beats all the imaginary superheroes and the true criminals that the American cinema falls in love with. Which sorrowfully leads us to the major flaw that this movie suffers, and I mean its lead actor.
I believe they picked out (Chazz Palminteri) as someone who has Italian roots on one hand, and as American - kind of known - actor, to assure distributing the movie internationally on the other hand. But I was highly disappointed due to his performance. In all of his movies, (Palminteri) is no one but (Palminteri), delivering mostly a usual performance. This time, it was sub-bar usual. The man dealt so belittlingly with that great character, playing him from outside, while using the (Palminteri) known-by-heart signature moves (the same old diction, body language, tone..), in a way made him the movie's weakest factor. And I didn't understand the matter of the big mustache too. The actual (Falcone) was a handsome man, not having that fur ball over his face! So obviously it wasn't enough to see (Palminteri) doing his routine in the totally wrong place, to have even more problems while trying to "see" that itself! Many scenes were ruined by this pale portrayal, and it's just bad irony, considering how high the whole movie was.
Maybe I blamed the editing slightly for using the same spirit while dealing with everything. You can see that the length of cutting was about the same; whether the event was bloody or emotional. Maybe it didn't get to show the side of the enemy, or give us a chance to hear them. But any of this or that wasn't a problem which could harm this fine movie. However, the problem of this movie about (Giovanni Falcone) is the one who played (Giovanni Falcone). He played down the character, and the movie.