Paramount's The Firm-A Fascinating and Bizarre Film

They made him an offer he should've refused.

The Firm is a 1993 legal thriller film directed by Sydney Pollack, written by David Rabe, Robert Towne, and David Rayfiel, produced by Davis Entertainment and Mirage Enterprises, and distributed by Paramount Pictures. The film is based on John Grisham's 1991 novel, The Firm. It stars Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman. It was nominated for Best Supporting Actress (Hunter) and Best Original Score, but did not win.

"Are you saying that my life is in danger?" -Mitch McDeere

Plot


After receiving a very generous offer from a small law firm in Memphis, top law student Mitch McDeere begins his a new life in the small town with his beloved wife, Abigail. As Mitch begins to get a feeling for the place, he notices that something isn't quite right, and joins forces with the FBI to investigate the firm. One thing is for certain; he can't trust anyone...even himself.


Positive Aspects


First off, the film does a good job of translating the book to the screen. I have not read the book, but I can tell when something is clearly based off of a book, and this movie just gets all the plot beats that the book probably has right. When I am reading a book, I picture it like a movie. When I was watching The Firm, I pictured pages of a book with sentences written describing what the characters were saying and doing.


I also think that the first part of the film is actually pretty good. It builds up to the payoff about the firm doing stuff for the mafia very well, and the tone is very uneasy and ominous. It is very fun to watch everything come together and see how McDeere reacts to the firm being bad. I like the setup for Mitch McDeere being forced into cheating on his wife, and then the firm starts using that as a way to get to blackmail him and threaten his family and his life.


The acting is good. Tom Cruise is as perfect as ever. He is more soft-spoken and polite in this, until he finds out the secret of the firm. I think that this is a character that you don't always see him play, and it was nice to see a change of pace from him. Everyone feels like they are polite in this film, and Gene Hackman does that, too. However, you can clearly see that something is off with him and with everyone besides the McDeeres. I think, though, that the ladies do the best job in this. Jeanne Tripplehorn and Holly Hunter are the two highlights of the film. Tripplehorn does a great job of reacting to all the craziness and horror of the things happening around her. One of the best scenes in this movie is the scene where Mitch tells Abby about the firm. That is the peak of the film, and Tripplehorn's expression in that is classic. Holly Hunter has this paranoid, kind of insane mantle that she takes up in this movie, and it works well, because all of the other characters feel very put together.


Negative Aspects


I hated the end of this movie. It is so unsatisfying and underwhelming and I could not stand it. I was thinking to myself throughout the final thirty minutes "Hey, I really hope this has a good ending, because this third act just isn't doing it for me.". Then the ending happened. It doesn't feel earned and you feel frustrated at how things turned out. Tom Cruise doesn't beat up all the bad guys. He talks to them. He agrees with them. There is no finale, there is just disappointment.


I also think that besides the main four characters (Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Holly Hunter), the characters are weak and underdeveloped. The leaders of the firm, who are our main antagonists, have about three minutes of total screen time. The mafia bosses have one scene. Tobin Bell's bounty hunter has about three minutes of screentime, also. The FBI agents are fine, I guess, so I'm more complaining about the villains. I don't remember any of their names, if they had any, and I also don't remember them doing anything particularly evil or frightening.


The plot of this film is bad. It is way too complex for any teenager to understand, and it feels like you have to be a lawyer to know what is going on. They use so many legal terms and don't bother explaining what they mean, and I had to keep pausing it to ask my dad what they were talking about. The mafia stuff doesn't really fit in to anything until the final act, and even then, it just feels confusing and weird. I don't know how it is in the book, but it feels like it is more made to be written than seen. There isn't enough time in this movie to explain all the little details, which you need in a movie like The Firm.


I also get the reason behind the entire storyline with the brother, but I don't think it was exactly necessary. It feels like a sidelined idea that they decided to throw back into the movie to add more spice, but they just didn't do it right. It is such a non-sequitur from the rest of the movie, and it really isn't that interesting.


I also am not a fan of the score. I can understand why some people would think it is good, but the piano and the overall vibe of the music just does not work for me. It doesn't match the tone of vibe of the film, so it makes the movie feel uneven.


Lastly, the movie itself is just very dull. The sets and the characters and the writing all feel like they are done to be dull and bland. All of the sets look, like, brown and white, with the exception of the time that they spend in the Caymans. The characters feel so cliche, which may be intentional, but it also might not be, and the writing is so generic and feels like normal human conversation. Now, that may sound like a good thing, but it isn't captivating dialogue. It's just boring conversation.


Final Score


Despite good acting, a good first act, and a clean transition from page to screen, The Firm feels like a dull reimagining of a possibly exciting book.


I will give it a Sour rating. Age range is 13+.


SWEET N' SOUR SCALE

Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad)

Moldy (Terrible)


"The Firm"


Fun Factor: 6/10

Acting: 8.5/10

Characters: 7/10

Story: 4/10

Quality: 5.5/10


Directed by Sydney Pollack


Released on June 30, 1993


Rated R for bloody violence, language, some sexual content, and disturbing themes


2 hours and 34 minutes


Tom Cruise as Mitchell McDeere

Gene Hackman as Avery Tolar

Jeanne Tripplehorn as Abby McDeere

Holly Hunter as Tammy Hemphill

Hal Holbrook as Oliver Lambert

Terry Kinney as Lamar Queen

Wilford Brimley as William Devasher

Ed Harris as Wayne Tarrance

David Strathairn as Ray McDeere

Tobin Bell as The Nordic Man