In the heart of the nation's capital, in a courthouse of the U.S. government, one man will stop at nothing to keep his honor, and one will stop at nothing to find the truth.
A Few Good Men is a 1992 legal drama film directed by Rob Reiner, written by Aaron Sorkin, produced by Castle Rock Entertainment, and distributed by Columbia Pictures. It stars Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson. The film is based on the Broadway play, A Few Good Men by Aaron Sorkin. The film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Nicholson), Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. It did not win any of the above.
"You can't handle the truth!" -Colonel Nathan R. Jessep
Lt. Daniel Kaffee is an eccentric military lawyer that is assigned to defend two Marines accused of murder. Although Kaffee originally intends on working the case with some kind of plea bargain, Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway convinces Kaffee to take the case to court. As they dig deeper into the case, Kaffee discovers further evidence that the Marines were ordered to attack their victim. Together, Galloway and Kaffee must prove that the order was real by calling Col. Nathan R. Jessep, a respected officer, to the stand.
I mean, you gotta give it to the writing. I don't know how it didn't win for Best Adapted Screenplay, but it didn't even get nominated. The script is so complex and cleverly written, with the flaws of the "Code Red" system. I love it when movies explore this type of pickle that the characters are in when it could potentially happen in real life. They did it in Crimson Tide and they do it in A Few Good Men. It shows that the laws and rules of the world can be contradicting. I love that kind of story, and Sorkin elevates it with his super dramatic style of writing that he always uses.
This is perhaps my favorite performance from Tom Cruise. He develops the character of Kaffee. He goes from immature, eccentric lawyer that just does plea bargains to the biggest military lawyer that America has seen with one important case. Cruise makes Kaffee pop on screen, and his presence works with Demi Moore's JoAnne Galloway and Jack Nicholson's Nathan R. Jessup. Speaking of, Nicholson just commands the screen when he's on. I wish that he would've been in more of it, but when his in it, he is so intimidating and demands respect with his serious, angry performance. Demi Moore shares great chemistry with Tom Cruise, whether they're arguing or whether they're conversing, and her relatively quiet but strong portrayal of Galloway is the perfect side character to Tom Cruise.
The final half an hour is one of the best, most tense non-action scenes that I have ever seen. Daniel Kaffee and Nathan Jessup obviously have some respect for one another, but they don't show it. They just show the hate for each other. It is incredibly intense and is a fantastic climax. Elevated by both the performances and all the possible things that you can do in court, I believe that this is the scene that got A Few Good Men nominated for Best Picture. It obviously peaks with those two minutes of back and forth screaming that starts with "You can't handle the truth!".
The plot builds up to the finale, and they execute it almost perfectly. It keeps building on top of itself, with new reveals and new people being introduced into the case. Like I said before, the writing explorers the flaws of the political system, and they just dig super deep into that idea during the movie. It never quite loses your attention, even when it's at a slow-paced moment. They always find a way to keep you invested and interested with new information and story reveals.
First off, I think that this movie is shot in a very strange way. I was watching it on DVD, for some reason, so that could contribute to it, but the camera angles don't feel completely right, the aspect ratio changes a bunch, and it looks like the characters don't always fit in certain frames. I've never really seen anything like it, but it can be very distracting at points and pull you straight out of the story.
The movie also does this thing where they act like the audience should know things that they just don't. There is way too much usage of military terms and confusing lawyer language that you could only know about if you have been to college. It can make the movie very hard to understand when they talk about stuff like the Code Red, and it is frustrating to have to continuously pause it to look up whatever they just said.
The movie also doesn't really have any subplots. It feels like they tease some, maybe a romance between Daniel Kaffee and JoAnne Galloway, but that ends up going nowhere. The movie is just etched into this one plot line about the Code Red and the upcoming trial, and it would've been better and not had an excessive runtime if you throw in a subplot, even one that could end up connecting to the bigger picture at the end.
Lastly, I think that every scene in this movie feels stretched out. Its runtime is about 2 hours and 20 minutes, but it easily could've been under 2 hours. They make some scenes just drag on to increase the runtime, making it boring and slow in the middle. What they should've done is made these scenes give their information and have more add to the climax instead of making a scene that is ten minutes long centered on one, small idea.
While it may have stretched out scenes and some other problems that are easily fixable, A Few Good Men delivers an intense, complex journey through an interesting concept that ends with a classic third act.
I will give it a Savory rating. Age range is 12+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good)
"A Few Good Men"
Fun Factor: 6.5/10
Directed by Rob Reiner
Released on December 11, 1992
Rated R for moderate violence, language, sexual references
2 hours and 18 minutes
Tom Cruise as Lt. Daniel Kaffee
Jack Nicholson as Col. Nathan R. Jessup
Demi Moore as Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway
Kevin Bacon as Capt. Jack Ross
Wolfgang Bodison as Lance Cpl. Harold W. Dawson
Kiefer Sutherland as 2nd Lt. Jonathan Kendrick
Kevin Pollak as Lt. Sam Weinberg