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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Two U.S. Marines, Lance-Corporal Harold Dawson and Private Louden
Downey, are charged with the murder of a fellow Marine, Private William
Santiago, at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Their alleged motive is
that Santiago was threatening to name Dawson as the man who illegally
fired a shot into Cuban territory, but the two men's defence is that
they did not intend to kill their victim. They claim that they were
ordered by an officer, Lieutenant Kendrick, to carry out a "code red"
on Santiago. This is slang for an unofficial punishment whereby Marines
whose conduct or efficiency is regarded as unsatisfactory are beaten up
by their comrades. Officially "code reds" are forbidden; unofficially
(according to the film) some officers are will tolerate them, even
encourage them, as a way of maintaining discipline. The defence team
therefore must establish that an order for a "code red" was given,
something the "top brass" are determined to cover up.
Leading Counsel for the defence is Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee, a young Navy lawyer, who has been given the job because he has a reputation as a skilled plea bargainer. The authorities hope that he will persuade his clients to plead guilty to a lesser charge, thereby avoiding the damaging publicity which might arise from a contested trial. The authorities' hopes are seemingly fulfilled when Kaffee and the prosecutor negotiate a bargain whereby the accused will plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter in exchange for a much-reduced sentence.
The only problem is that Dawson and Downey refuse to play along. The U.S. Marines have a strict code of honour- "Unit, Corps, God, Country", generally in that order. (One of the reasons why Santiago was attacked is that he was felt to have breached this code). The two accused believe that to admit to wrongdoing would be cowardly and dishonourable. Dawson, in particular, despises Kaffee, whom he sees as a desk-bound officer incapable of understanding the Marine Code. So, of course, there will have to be a trial after all. (As we all knew there would. Whoever heard of a courtroom drama which ends with a plea bargain?)
In my view there is one major plot-hole. Under cross-examination Downey admits that he was not present when Kendrick ordered the "code red" but learned about it later from Dawson. It is never explained why the defence team, who have otherwise prepared thoroughly for the trial, were unaware of such a crucial fact. Nor is it ever explained how, after this fact comes to light, Downey and Dawson can continue to be represented by the same lawyers, as they have quite different, and incompatible, defences. Dawson is saying "I was ordered to do it by Kendrick" and Downey is effectively saying, "I was ordered to do it by Dawson, who may or may not have ordered to do it by Kendrick". You don't need to be an expert in legal ethics to realise the problems this could cause for a single defence team.
Despite this plot-hole, "A Few Good Men" is an excellent film. Director Rob Reiner keeps events moving at a fast pace and knows how to maintain tension throughout. Courtroom dramas are not always noted for photography, but this one contains some striking shots of Washington DC, where the trial takes place. Reiner also receives good support from his actors. I have not always been Tom Cruise's greatest fan; during the early part of his career he could too often come across as cocky and irritating. In the late eighties and early nineties, however, he began to emerge as an actor of genuine stature in films like "Rain Man", "Born on the Fourth of July" and this one. The rise of his character here, Kaffee, can be seen as parallelling his own rise as an actor. Kaffee starts off as a rather cocksure young man, confident (despite the misgivings of his colleague Lieutenant Commander Joanne Galloway) that the whole thing can be sorted out with a minimum of fuss. When he is forced into a contested trial, against his better judgement, he at first seems unsure of himself, but later begins to emerge as a lawyer of genuine status.
There are good supporting performances from Demi Moore as Galloway, Kevin Bacon as the prosecutor, Kiefer Sutherland as Kendrick and Wolfgang Bodison as Dawson. The real star turn, however, comes from Jack Nicholson as the base commander, Colonel Nathan Jessup. Jessup is outwardly a commanding, authoritative figure, but even when he tries to seem at his most controlled it is clear that there is a nasty streak of uncontrolled anger and aggression just below the surface. His anger is directed partly at any man under his command, such as Santiago, who does not fit his idea of what a marine should be, and partly at civilians in general, who he believes fail to understand or appreciate the efforts and sacrifices which the military are making on their behalf. He has a particular contempt for men like Kaffee, whom he sees as mere civilians- in-uniform despite their ostensible military rank. The confrontation between Cruise and Nicholson when Jessup is being cross-examined is the great set piece of the film.
The film was made in 1992, when Guantanamo Bay was not yet being used as a controversial detention centre. (Some of Jessup's aggression may derive from a sense of frustration that the recent end of the Cold War had left him in command of what must at the time have seemed like an anachronistic relic). Since the nineties, however, events at Guantanamo seem to have reinforced this film's central message, namely that the military's mission needs to be tempered by a sense of humanity, by fair play and by respect for the law. 8/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Haha' I thought to myself as I gazed into Tom Cruise's eyes on the
front of the video box, 'this should be good for a few chuckles.'
It did not disappoint.
Tour de France doesn't even begin to describe the journey this film took me on. Up, down, left, right; there wasn't anywhere I didn't go (emotionally speaking). First things first; the chuckles. Although as previously stated (see above) there are some good chuckles this is not a comedic film. Like most classics it transcends genre though if you forced me to tell the 'truth' ;) I'd probably say its more of a drama set in a court room? I don't think there's a name for it.
Anyway, before I get carried away I should write a few words about the plot. Three words to be exact: Cruise v Lawyers. Saying any more would be spoiling the surprise #spoileralert #hewins.
As always the film gave me a lot to think about, whether it was raising questions about the military's unquestioning faith in chain of command or who'd win in a cook-off, Tom Cruise or Kevin Bacon (#nocontest), the film stayed with me long after the credits rolled.
To conclude I would salute this film (like Tom Cruise does at the end of the movie (I'm referencing the movie (you'll get it when you see it (trust me ;))))) and give it 12/14 Bens, you do the math ;).
This is an excellent court room drama that is set in the military. Here a lawyer is the hero. He puts his career and life and on the line to find the truth. The movie does an excellent job of exposing the hypocrisy of a corrupt organization that will do anything to cover up its criminal behavior. Jack Nicholson gives a classic rendition of a arrogant and pompous military martinet. His abuse of authority is equaled only by the brazen manner in which he conducts himself. The movie does contain certain technical flaws regarding the depiction of the military, such as the condensing of the chain of command, but they in no way detract from the dramatic power of the story. Lieutenant Kaffee has certain choices to make: take the expedient route and thereby save his career and sacrifice the lives of his clients who are the tools of a corrupt colonel, or confront the colonel knowing that to do so may mean the end of his career.
As a courtroom drama this film may not give some the action or excitement that they are seeking but it was always enough to keep you enthralled in the storyline. It was a pretty simple plot but sufficient in that fact. The acting was all around magnificent and while Jack Nicholson usually gets all the praise for his final speech which gave him an Oscar nomination, I thought that Tom Cruise gave the best performance. The direction and cinematography were also very good especially the opening credit sequence of the marines doing gun drills. I thought that there were a few hiccups in the script but overall it was very entertaining and had creatively clever and funny dialogue. I don't know that this has a very good rewatchability factor but it is definitely deserving of a higher score than its current 7.6. Masterfully acted and a wonderfully made film.
This is a courtroom drama starring Tom Cruise as Lt. Daniel Kaffee, who
is assigned to defend two marines accused of murdering a fellow
colleague. Joining the defense team is Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway (Demi
Moore) and Lt. Sam Weinberg (Kevin Pollack), and all three engage in a
rigorous attempt to help clear the marines, who contend that their
assault against the colleague was a result of acting under orders.
While this film doesn't have much, if any, action scenes, the tense and riveting atmosphere of the court marshal makes the plot very captivating and the high momentum of the defense vs. prosecution case keeps your mind mesmerized.
Tom Cruise's Lt. Kaffee character was a bit of a turn-off at first because of his indifferent behavior toward Lt. Cdr. Galloway and his nonchalant response toward the cast. However, his character grew to be quite likable once the case progressed throughout the movie and his partnership with Galloway came into fruition. I enjoyed seeing Kaffee's humor and Galloway's collected and commanding personality as they deal with the case with all the odds stacked up against them, from the prosecutor Capt. Jack Ross (Kevin Bacon) to the intimidating Col. Nathan R. Jessup (Jack Nicholson). Nicholson's delivery was spot-on, owning to those who question his authority; he makes sure that those who shows him the least courtesy realizes what his rank is and what he goes through as a lieutenant colonel, as he powerfully depicts. In addition, the exchanges between him and Kaffee are what I think the highlight of the film.
All the legal stuff, case examinations and witness testimony are thought provoking; they make for a very captivating film and one to see for any drama movie fans.
It's interesting that I picked this off a shelf after the release of
the Senate torture report (12/2014). Coincidence... or
Fact is, there's been so much official wrongdoing in the years since the release of "A Few" that I'm forced to ask: Is _A Few Good Men_ just yet- another in a long line of pop mythologizations that give us a vicarious outlet for the myth that America is a nation of laws?
In other words, we watch movies like _A Few_, then even when our financial elites and highest elected officials commit heinous crimes ("Too Big to Fail", 2003 Iraq invasion, CIA torture), we still find a little spot in our hearts that believes, in direct opposition to the evidence of our own eyes, that America lives up to its ideals.
The film is a sort of niche masterpiece: It shows how Sorkin by that time had buffed his storycrafting creds to a high sheen, and Meathead was certainly no slouch, either. And the acting and production are excellent, from top to bottom.
But if America doesn't wake up and smell the real-world injustice and inhumanity, films like _A Few_ are going to wind up being hologram showpieces for an American myth that's gone completely hollow. And that would be a damn shame.
Plot In A Paragraph: A young hotshot naval lawyer Daniel Kaffee (Tom
Cruise) is given what seems to be an open and shut case of two marines
murdering another while he slept. Kaffee, who has a reputation for plea
bargaining was assigned by division, to defend the accused. Over seeing
the defence of the accused is Jo Galloway (Demi Moore), from internal
affairs, who is renowned for her attention to detail. She believes
their innocence and suspects a cover up. In charge of the marine unit
in question is Col Nathan Jessop (Jack Nicholson), a hard-ass marine
who commands respect and demands the best.
All of the leads are perfectly cast and superb. Kevin Bacon, Keifer Sutherland, JT Walsh, Kevin Pollack, Wolfgang Bodison and James Marshall are all solid support. Noah Wyle and Cuba Gooding JR both have small roles here.
One of the problems (and this really is nit picking) is Tom Cruise's character is unbelievably cocky and arrogant early on. The scene where he is eating the apple in Moore's office annoys the living hell out of me. Demi Moore is great, she always delivers, whilst Jack Nicholson does what Jack Nicholson does. And nobody does it better.
It's well directed with excellent performances all round and a great score. How Rob Reiner was not nominated for an Oscar for this movie baffles me, especially when the movie it's self was up for Best Picture.
A Few Good Men concerns the trial of two Marines who are charged with
the murder of a fellow Marine. They are assigned a Navy lawyer who is
known for plea bargains & has never stepped into a courthouse but when
the two accused refuse to sign the plea & maintain that they were
acting under orders, their lawyer is left with no choice but to face
the biggest challenge of his life.
Directed by Rob Reiner (Stand by Me, The Princess Bride & When Harry Met Sally...), the flow of events is smoothly paced & keeps the entertainment alive throughout its runtime. Written by Aaron Sorkin, the exchange of dialogues is very dynamic and is at its best during the final showdown. Rest of the technical aspects like camera-work, editing & music add to the enriching experience this film is but the best contribution comes from its cast.
As far as performances go, A Few Good Men features a star-studded cast in Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson & Demi Moore plus makes excellent use of its supporting characters. Cruise once again steps up to the task & adds another impressive feature under his bag on his road to stardom. Nicholson is absolute badass & is the most impressive of all. Moore juggles throughout the story & the rest of the cast does a commendable job in their given roles.
On an overall scale, A Few Good Men is a smart, slick & highly entertaining courtroom drama that easily succeeds in keeping the viewers invested in its story and never lets its stars become bigger than the film itself. The best moment for me is of course the final showdown between Cruise & Nicholson in their war of words and is easily one of the best films in the career of both. It didn't feel like a masterpiece but it does its job very well. Definitely recommended.
The film is ravishing and spectacular. The story is quite brilliant and
is relevant to various activities related to corruption and other
inaccurate happenings at the national levels. The film possesses
everything, to be precise: a fine pace, honorable quotes, sensational
acting and a perfect conclusion.
The star cast, needless to say, was sterling with Tom Cruise and Demi Moore as the leads fighting for justice, and Jack Nicholson in a negative role.
Rob Reiner too has been impressive with the direction. He was simply marvelous. The movie had all the ingredients which had to be inculcated.
Watch it because it is distinctive. It is a war between the good and the bad, justice and injustice, right and wrong. A must watch!
This is possibly Tom Cruise's best role, one of Jack Nicholson's most
iconic roles and one of Demi Moore's most underrated in this
star-studded court room drama.
The plot centres around the death or a marine in Guantanamo Bay naval base, and Kaffee (Cruise) is the inexperienced arrogant new lawyer called in to defend the two men accused of his murder, whereas they protest they were acting on orders - a "code red" for discipline. Also in this are Kevin Bacon, Cuba Gooding Jnr, Keifer Sutherland, J T Walsh, Noah Wyle, Kevin Pollak ... plus outstanding performances by Wolfgang Bodison and James Marshall as the two marines on trial.
Jack Nicholson plays Col. Jessup the highest ranking officer who has the level to order the code red and to prove that the two squaddies were just following orders, but Kaffee has to prove this up against the stubborn code of the marine commander who believes the rules of the corp are above all else. Nicholson plays a fantastic mix of hubris and superiority... the arrogance that he cannot be caught, he's above the law, and he has some impressive monologues but Tom's famous aggressiveness and determination, seen in many of his roles, is perfect and opposite each other they sizzle. Whilst this is a gripping murder mystery and court room drama, there is plenty of humour and emotion and the writing of Aaron Sorkin is (as ever) flawless with a less than Hollywood ending. Realistic and believable, you are sucked into this story and the clues are truly clever. This is a film that can be watched over and over despite knowing the outcome, and the performances of all the players makes this film completely absorbing.
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