Critic Reviews



Based on 15 critic reviews provided by
By casting attractive stars in the leads, by finding the right visual look, by underlining the action with brooding, ominously sad music, a good director can create the illusion of meaning even when nothing's there.
The story, neatly compressed, unfolds in dependable and photogenic ways. And it is coaxed along by Mr. Pakula's considerable skills as a brisk, methodical film maker.
Much like Pakula's "Presumed Innocent", this is a solid and intelligent, if unspectacular adaptation, and just a tad tighter than The Firm to give it the edge that's needed.
Chicago Reader
It's too bad that Pakula allows this 1993 movie to dawdle after its climax, but prior to that he's adept at suggesting unseen menace and keeping things in motion.
Unfortunately, The Pelican Brief comes across as a prolonged bout with deja vu: you know you've seen this before, and more than once at that.
The final result is an unnecessarily-long thriller that contains far more talking than action. Pakula's direction is lackluster, showing little of the style that permeated his two most impressive pictures, "All the President's Men" and "Presumed Innocent".
Los Angeles Times
So it is a surprise to say that the biggest mystery this legal thriller presents is how a film based on a novel by John Grisham, starring the bankable duo of [Julia Roberts Darby Shaw] and [Denzel Washington Gray Grantham] and written and directed by veteran Alan J. Pakula can end up more of a fizzle than an explosion. [17 Dec 1993 Pg. F1]
The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
Pakula's screenplay looks to bulldoze a clear path through the narrative thickets, but this stuff is impenetrable - meant to be complicated, it's just confusing.
Entertainment Weekly
Pakula insists that The Pelican Brief is haute cuisine, and the seriousness nearly wrecks it.
A brightly wrapped, ketchup-drenched mush-burger, it slides down the Zeitgeist esophagus like a slippery McPelican. You pay, you swallow, you drive home. You're left with nothing except, possibly, heartburn.

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