In this dramatic courtroom thriller, LT Daniel Kaffee, a Navy lawyer who has never seen the inside of the courtroom, defends two stubborn Marines who have been accused of murdering a colleague. Kaffee is known as being lazy and had arranged for a plea bargain. Downey's Aunt Ginny appoints Cmdr. Galloway to represent him. Also on the legal staff is LTJG Sam Weinberg. The team rounds up many facts and Kaffee is discovering that he is really cut out for trial work. The defense is originally based upon the fact that PFC Santiago, the victim, was given a "CODE RED". Santiago was basically a screw-up. At Gitmo, screw-ups aren't tolerated. Especially by Col. Nathan Jessup. In Cuba, Jessup and two senior officers try to give all the help they can, but Kaffee knows something's fishy. In the conclusion of the film, the fireworks are set off by a confrontation between Jessup and Kaffee. Written by
Matt Curtolo <firstname.lastname@example.org>
[June 2008] Ranked #5 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Courtroom Drama". See more »
After Kaffee has entered a plea for the two marines, Weinberg and Galloway both turn and are facing him. But in the close-up we see Galloway facing forward with only her head turned toward him and then we see her turn again. See more »
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Guantanamo Bay is, apart possibly from the 38th Parallel in Korea, the only place left on earth where the US Military still confronts hostile Stalinism, eyeball to eyeball. Ceded to the USA after the Spanish-American War of 1898, Guantanamo is America's only outpost on the island of Cuba. Marines guarding the perimeter of the naval base are under immense pressure. Here in the Cold War's last remaining hotspot, they are responsible for protecting the Free World.
A border incident has occurred. A marine sentry has fired a 'live' round in the direction of the communists. One of his colleagues has informed on him, bringing on himself a 'code red'. The 'code red' is an unofficial disciplinary measure, imposed by a marine squad when a member offends against the unit's esprit de corps. Having been gagged, bound and beaten, the marine dies at his colleagues' hands. There will now be a court-martial.
Demi Moore plays Lieutenant-Commander Joanne Galloway, a lawyer in the Navy's Internal Affairs Department. A deft plot device has her rehearsing to herself a request to be assigned to the case as she walks across the parade ground, efficiently conveying necessary information to the viewer.
Dan Kaffee (Tom Cruise) is a smart, flippant, good-looking young Navy lawyer. His father was a renowned jurist, and Dan feels the burden of his father's reputation. Indeed, his casual, tongue-in-cheek attitude to the law is his way of avoiding comparison with his father. You can't fail if you don't even try.
Kaffee is assigned to defend the two marine privates accused of killing the informer. Why a junior officer should be given conduct of such a serious case is baffling, unless of course the Marine Corps wants these men to be found guilty, in order to protect somebody more important...
Colonel Nathan Jessep is fascinating. Jack Nicholson always turns in a magnetic performance, but this one is special. He makes his character by turns urbane, self-assured, sarcastic, professional and menacing.
Gradually, Demi and Tom start to pull together and to function as a defence team. The 'code red' doctrine is exposed as a pernicious practice.
If the film is a stock courtroom drama pretty much like all the others, it certainly has qualities which set it apart. Three outstanding performances from the stars, Nicholson, Cruise and Moore, make it a bit special. The denouement is very hard to believe, but there are things in the film which linger in the memory and compensate for the exaggerations of the plot.
The opening credits roll over lovingly-filmed images of a precision-drill rifle squad in action. The viewer is, from the very start, placed emotionally in the context of a severe, inflexible discipline which is both admirable and unnerving. Kaffee indulges in some sparkling legal jockeying. Though he may lack trial experience, we feel that he will defend these men ably. He is nobody's fool. The flirtatious bickering between Kaffee and Galloway is well done. Jessep's walk to the witness stand is a moment of high drama, with Nicholson filmed from a low angle, emphasising the formidable authority of the man.
This clever, highly-polished film finally convinced me that Cruise can act. As for Demi, I am still unable to figure her out. What is it about her that remains stubbornly unsympathetic? She has abundant intelligence and talent, and is exquisitely beautiful, and yet is is impossible to warm to her. Does she get these parts because of her dark personality, or do the roles colour our perception of her?
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