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Reviews & Ratings for
The Pelican Brief More at IMDbPro »

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A Scandal Bubbling Up Around Pelicans

Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
14 February 2010

The assassination of two Supreme Court Justices in a 24 hour period would certainly be a crisis of incredible proportions for the USA. But I wonder would the solution be even more cataclysmic for the national psyche, depending on what it was.

Food for thought should you decide to watch The Pelican Brief. Now how does the state bird of Louisiana fit into the homicides of two of the Brethren? That you have to see the film for.

Paranoia is the key word of The Pelican Brief. Julia Roberts is a law student who is sleeping with her professor, Sam Shepard, who once clerked for Justice Hume Cronyn and in fact will probably be his biographer. A little bit of research on Roberts's part into the cases involving these two who were generally on opposite sides on the court gives her what she feels could be the reason and link for the killings. And pelicans actually have something to do with it.

I've heard it said that if one could just keep a cool head in a crisis, you can get out of it. Roberts writes her theory up, shows it to Shepard who in turn shares it with a friend in the FBI. Next thing you know he's blown up by a car bomb and she's running for her life. What if they had just ignored her theory?

Julia's a pretty woman in real fright and her one source of support is Denzel Washington, an investigative reporter also looking into the assassinations. No romance here, but good chemistry between the leads.

At this point with films like The Firm, The Client, The Rainmaker, John Grisham's books have a pre-sold audience. But that also places a big responsibility on the players who have to live up to the Grisham characters that his readers have come to know. I can't see how he could complain about Julia, Denzel and the rest of the cast of The Pelican Brief.

I'd pay attention also to Tony Goldwyn who in the Nineties was making a nice name for himself in villain roles like in Ghost. Goldwyn plays a really creepy White House aide to President Robert Culp. The kind of man who would have found a home with Richard Nixon. Culp's pretty good to as a president like Nixon, who has a nice scandal bubbling up around him.

A film made from a John Grisham novel with a great cast of players. What's not to like?

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Grisham won't be ashamed

Author: Raphaël Iberg from Lutry, Switzerland
21 November 2006

Here is a rather good adaptation of John Grisham's novel, "The Pelican Brief". It's really better than "The Firm", also based on an excellent book by Grisham.

Denzel Washington - a great actor, one of my favorites - is the perfect guy to embody the journalist Gray Grantham of the "Washington Post" ("Washington Herald" in the movie if you've noticed). The young Julia Roberts makes her beginning in Hollywood with a rather convincing Darby Shaw. Tony Golwyn is good in Fletcher Cole, too. So, a good cast for a good movie.

Finally, Grisham's job is well respected, there's a good cast, we have a good moment of TV fun !

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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Suspense, Superior Acting, and Fast-paced Storyline.

Author: leo14358 from United States
14 February 2011

Even if you don't particularly like the courtroom drama genre, you will enjoy this film. The conspiracy plot may seem cheesy and typical on paper, but it was supported by convincing acting by Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington, two of my favourite stars in Hollywood. The characters' emotional vulnerability is probably what makes this very fictional (and unrealistic) battle-against-big-money come to life.

Most of all, the chemistry in the partnership between Denzel and Julia feels natural and consistent. Furthermore, the fast-pace storytelling makes sure you are sitting at the edge of your seat throughout the 140 minute film. Clever inquisitions by the pair is juxtaposed with intense action scenes from the first moment on... The perfect sequencing makes it an enjoyable, entertaining experience.

Julia plays an ambitious, young law student who stumbles upon critical information in a conspiracy; Denzel is an political journalist who is known for his masterful investigations and personal passion for his work. How much of their personal stakes are they willing to put through to uncover this massive conspiracy?

The movie creates memorable, 3-dimensional characters without cheesy lines. A must-see for those looking for a suspense-filled investigation film.

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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

In response to "Hollywood Cowardice"

Author: mikeymg1234 from United States
5 July 2010

You gave the movie a vote of two because of some made-up racism?

Other people should know that there was no romantic interest between the two of them (Roberts and Washington), because Shaws(Roberts) lover has only just been killed. And also a large part of her motivation in the movie is to avenge her dead boyfriend, shown true in one way by how Shaw Carry's the pain of his death through out the movie. To have Roberts kissing, "or a lot more" with Washington would of been ridiculous. I never payed attention to race once in the whole movie, didn't think of it one bit... It is amazing how nowadays its only the people who accuse of racism, that focus on race so intently. Keep your "IF IT WERE WHITE PEOPLE"s and your ignorance to yourself.

Was a great movie you should watch it.

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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

It was OK

Author: arthurclay from Italy
4 May 2005

I don't know if I would classify it as the best Grisham adaption as some other people might my personal favorite is undeniably "The Firm" but that's neither here or there. This one did not suffer from a lack of casting or a good plot but I don't care for Julia Roberts's acting and I feel she is the most overrated actress in America. That is probably the reason why I haven't seen this one since it was released but I suppose I could stand to see it again and I might change my mind and soften my stance a little. I know my brother and mother went to see it at the theaters and they did enjoy it so maybe I am being too critical. The story is Julia Robert's character is having an affair with her professor and he gets blown up in a car bomb meant for her. She knows she's dead meat because she wrote a paper entitled "The Pelican Brief" which theorizes that oil companies assassinated two Supreme Court justices in order to influence a decision to mine for oil reserves in some protected wetlands. Denzel Washington is a news reporter who Roberts contacts for help and he does his best to protect her from the powers that be who want her dead and the story suppressed. Like I say it was a pretty good movie another reason why I may not have liked it as much as other Grisham movies is that it didn't have the Mob angle that some of the others did. But it was worth watching.

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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:


Author: Peter Swanson ( from United States
17 February 2005

My wife and I bought the DVD of Pelican Brief to keep at a rental house, and didn't originally plan to make it part of our personal library. I watch this film fairly often, and I'm always surprised at how much I like it. It's became a reliable Friday night "Nothing's-on- whaddaya-wanna-watch?" film, and goes very well with pizza. The plot could be more tightly woven, but it winds nicely into the lives of the 2 main characters, and keeps them busy and the audience involved. I enjoy the fact that we get to see Julia Roberts really act, not just look pretty, and Denzel Washington is -- as ever-- superb. Stanley Tucci demonstrates again that he can play ANYthing, and the immortal Hume Cronyn does more from a supine position than most actors can do at all. I give it a solid 7 1/2 (imdb votes don't show fractions), and say "Give it a try!"

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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Thriller snoozer

Author: George Parker from Orange County, CA USA
19 July 2003

"The Pelican Brief" knocks off a Grisham novel with the usual Grisham Washington D.C. government conspiracy underpinnings involving the White House, FBI, etc. and countless faceless suits running around spying, snooping, eavesdropping, and the ever popular skulking. Roberts is at the center as a law student who puts together a theory, the Pelican brief, about who had two Supreme Court justices assassinated and then becomes involved with newsman Washington as they both go on the run and on the trail of the proof needed to unravel the conspiracy and get the bad guys. With a lukewarm reception by critics and public alike, "The Pelican Brief" offers star power and busy, convoluted entertainment for couch potatoes. Turn brain off before watching. (B-)

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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Its not brief, but it's watchable.

Author: Philby-3 from Sydney, Australia
20 October 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

MILD SPOILER FOLLOWS. An experienced director and a good cast turn this adaption of one of John Grisham's intricate but pedestrian thrillers with a legal background into a watchable entertainment. It's not nearly as interesting as `The Rainmaker' and not such a good action yarn as `The Firm' but is prettier than both, with good use being made of New Orleans as one of the major locations.

Denzel Washington as Afro-American ace newspaper reporter Gray Grantham and Julia Roberts as Darcy Shaw, a beautiful WASP princess law student, are very good together and I longed for racist sensibilities to be outraged by their characters having a good old bonk.They get it together at the end of the book, but alas, in the film they do not. In the book though, unless I've missed something, Gray is not specifically Afro-American, though he cultivates his own Afro-American Deep Throat (a White House janitor).

I quite enjoyed Sam Shepards' randy drunk law professor who has fallen in love with his beautiful student Darcy. He's very improbable yet quite convincing. What she sees in him is harder to figure, but he is disposed of early on. Most of the other characterisations are stock standard – the dimwit President (an amalgam of Ford, Reagan and Bush senior), the conniving presidential aid (most of the Nixon White House), the straight arrow FBI director (maybe not so stock standard) the laconic, not to say taciturn evil hitmen, the tough but supportive editor (John Lithgow rather good as a Ben Bradlee type).

As in `Three Days of the Condor' the great liberal press saves the situation and the crooks are brought to book (well, some of them) despite the machinations of the White House and the CIA. There's not an original idea in the film but Alan Pakula puts everything together quite well. It's not a patch on Pakula's `All the President's Men', but it's hard to hate a movie aimed at trying to save the Louisiana Brown Pelican. Remember the rhyme? `What a wonderful bird is the Pelican; for its mouth can hold more than its belly can.' This is a pretty cluttered movie, but it takes off somehow, soars once or twice, and lands groggily a bit early.

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

OK thriller

Author: Idocamstuf from Greenville, NY
29 September 2002

OK, this movie is not great, it's just OK. The cast is great, and the director is good. I know for a fact that if this movie did not have these big actors in it, it would not have gotten more than a 5. It doesnt really have many thrills, and it's not very original. If you like the actors in this movie, give it a try. **1/2 out of *****

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Jon Monsarrat review: so-so thriller, too low key

Author: johnnymonsarrat from United States
19 August 2002

The Pelican Brief is about a USA Presidential scandal, but it has nothing like the gripping pace of other Oval Office flicks. Mostly it concerns lawyers who can't fight and don't use guns, which is OK as far as realism is concerned, but doesn't exactly make for a bang-zip-bam action flick.

The badguys don't seem to be able to decide whether they are following the goodguys or trying to kill them. The worst aspect of the film is how the badguys consistently fail to do this.

However, to be fair, the film held my interest and had a few interesting ideas. The acting was good and the setting was very REAL. I mean, to make up for the fact that there weren't any stuntman flying around on wires, there was a sense that yes, a scandal might actually play out this way in real life. Except that the goodguys would die on Day One.

Who should see this film:

-- action / thriller buffs, but only on a rainy day when you've nothing better to do

-- law school students, but see "The Paper Chase" first

I'll give The Pelican Brief a so-so 6 out of 10.

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