Review No. 410
The Bottom Line: If you haven’t seen it, you’ve committed a lifelong crime.
Directed by: Rob Reiner
Written by: Aaron Sorkin
Based on: “A Few Good Men” by Aaron Sorkin
Lt. J.G. Daniel Alistair Kaffee: Tom Cruise
Col. Nathan R. Jessup: Jack Nicholson
Lt. Cmdr. JoAnne Galloway: Demi Moore
Capt. Jack Ross: Kevin Bacon
1st Lt. Jonathan James Kendrick: Kiefer Sutherland
Lt. J.G. Sam Weinberg: Kevin Pollack
Also Starring: Aaron Sorkin, Christopher Guest, Cuba Gooding Jr., James Marshall, J.A. Preston, John M. Jackson, Joshua Malina, J.T. Walsh, Matt Craven, Michael DeLorenzo, Noah Wyle, Wolfgang Bodison, Xander Berkeley
Distributed by Columbia Pictures on December 11, 1992. Produced in English by the United States. Runs 138 mins. Rated R by the MPAA for language.
A Few Good Men was watched on February 2, 2013.
Col. Nathan R. Jessup (Nicholson): “You want answers?”
Lt. J.G. Daniel Alistair Kaffee (Cruise): “I think I’m entitled.”
Jessup: “You want answers?!”
Kaffee: “I want the truth!”
Jessup: “You can’t handle the truth!”
It’s quite depressing that Rob Reiner will never direct a film like A Few Good Men ever again. Back in the mid-eighties and early-nineties, it was his time. Hey, Archie Bunker, look what “Meathead” can actually do. How about This Is Spinal Tap? Or Stand by Me? The Princess Bride? When Harry Met Sally? And to top it all off, how about A Few Good Men? How do ya like them apples?
I don’t know what Archie thought about the film, but I loved it. Quite a lot, actually. To say the least, A Few Good Men left me speechless. I felt like I had the story through its entirety, in a sense that I knew how it was going to end. The only way I can express my concluding surprise without spoiling anything is to be very vague. I did know how it was going to end, but the true ending was entirely unexpected.
I’d assume that’s what was intended in Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay. You may not recognize the name at first (I sure didn’t), but it should mean something that he went on to write Moneyball, The Social Network, and TV’s The Newsroom. That this is merely his first time writing for film purposes is inconceivable. Sorkin’s writing of a courtroom drama is laid back and loaded with pop culture allusions, yet at the same time intense, doused in intrigue, and impossible to rip away from.
The film narrates an unbelievable story. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) is a lieutenant for the Navy as of just over a year ago. He doesn’t realize how serious the job is, as he’s never seen the inside of a courtroom. In fact, he doesn’t take his own life seriously. He’s out playing baseball while he should be working, and if his father weren’t the one who encouraged him to get the job he did, he’d be unemployed.
Kaffee has his doubts. One of them is the woman with whom he works, Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore). She’s even more an amateur; neither of them know what a “code red” exactly is, but at least she can take the job as seriously as it’s meant. There’s one more working with them: Lieutenant Sam Weinberg (Kevin Pollak). He’s less definitive of the word “amateur,” but he’s shown to care more for his wife and kids than being in court.
These three have one case on their hands. A “weakling” named Santiago was murdered by two Marines, as an order by their own colonel (Jack Nicholson). Their mission is to prove that this was a command (a “code red,” no less), not an arbitrary homicide. But how are a few amateurs going to reach success when the men they are up against are well-experienced, knowledgeable, skilled, “Philadelphian lawyers”?
A Few Good Men is a rare example of a film in which an all-star cast practically plays itself. Tom Cruise – a cocky, immature, sarcastic guy. He’s working on a job that is a testament to the United States, all that remains of his deceased father, but a simple joke to himself. Demi Moore – someone who, from the minute she starts, isn’t taken seriously by the misogynists surrounding her, but still makes countless attempts to rule with an iron fist. Jack Nicholson – the brutal, volatile, yet all the more clever “wiseguy.” As far as acting is concerned, A Few Good Men is quite an apt title, perhaps even an understatement.
The film is one of the greatest, if not the greatest courtroom drama since To Kill a Mockingbird or even Twelve Angry Men. There is one flaw I must address, however: Marc Shaiman’s music. It’s this that marginalizes the film’s grade from what would otherwise be an “A-plus.” Yes, that’s the truth. Sorry if you can’t handle it.