A young lawyer joins a prestigious law firm only to discover that it has a sinister dark side.A young lawyer joins a prestigious law firm only to discover that it has a sinister dark side.A young lawyer joins a prestigious law firm only to discover that it has a sinister dark side.
The twist in the plot as you realize this Memphis law firm is not what it seems, and the rather innocent freshman lawyer played by Tom Cruise is slow to catch on, is the core of the movie, and a relief. It starts steadily, or slowly, depending on your patience, and in fact plays many scenes out in more detail than we need for a kind of bookish thriller. It's not a bad ride, and there are some further, minor twists, but it's not packed tightly enough, or frankly original enough, to lift its boots out of the sand.
Director Sydney Pollack, hugely successful as a director and actor, might have just had bad scriptwriting here by David Rabe, because John Grisham's book had proved itself. The acting is really solid (I'm no Cruise fan, but he's fine), but the characters are often doing things that just don't quite follow, or that are improbable or stupid. Or they end up doing something dangerous and the danger is either watered down or ridiculous. Examples that come to mind are how they show Cruise discovering or stealing or xeroxing files. We get the plot, but it lumbers along, or is just shown, not built up with suspense. The cinematographer takes a hit here, I think. Things are often nicely framed and routinely well done, but a thriller needs to hide some things, show some things, create ambiance and mystery, and so on, visually. It doesn't really happen.
So, for a kind of technical high-stakes, rich person's good-guy bad-guy suspense film, it will get you through, but barely. By the last five minutes, if you aren't sucked in, you'll want to scream "hurry up!"
- May 25, 2010