Plot: What’s it about?
This is it. This is the “coutroom drama” movie that all others have to live up to from now on. Based on the award-winning play by Aaron Sorkin who is also responsible for TV show “The West Wing” and “The American President”, A Few Good Men made it’s way to the screen in late 1992. Rob Reiner, known early on for his acting career, has turned into one of our most talented directors and this movie being his follow-up to “Misery” didn’t hurt either. The cast is perfect and I can’t think of another actor that would do half as good in the lead role of Daniel Kaffee as Tom Cruise. Jack Nicholson delivers a perfoamance that’s already been quoted so many times that it’s become a cliche’…”You can’t handle the truth!”. Yep, this movie made that quote famous.
It starts at a Marine base in Cuba when two Marines charge into a room and shove a rag down a young man’s throat. He screams and hits the floor, then we’re intoduced to the opening credits…Now normally, the opening credits aren’t something worth mentioning, but I feel that this is a very rare exception. It shows Marine troops on the Washington Naval Yard going through their excercises and it’s simply amazing! The depth of field to see the whole row of soldiers with their guns looks like a “wave”. Words can’t really do it justice, if you haven’t seen it you need to. And if you have, you know what I’m talking about. It’s then that we meet the ambitous young lawyer, Jo Ann Callaway. She’s a determined woman who wants to be assigned this case, but is refused it due to her slow stlye, she’s more of an investigator than a trial lawyer.
To make matters worse, the case is assigned to “cocky, young guy” Lt. Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and it boiles her blood that she wasn’t even taken seriously. We see Kaffee and learn very quick that his life consists of watching baseball games and practicing on his softball game all the while being a lawyer, and a good one, in the JAG corps. Kaffee’s father was a great trial lawyer, and it’s assumed that he is just follwing in his footsteps. Together with friend and cohort, Lt. Sam Weinberg (Kevin Pollack), the investigating starts. When the case turns out to be a LOT more than they expect, and with little help from the accused Marines, Dawson and Downey (Wolfgang Bodison and James Marshall respectively), it’s up to Kaffee, Weinberg and Callaway to make a case to get them off the hook. In his typical fashion, Kaffee delivers and manages to get the sentence down considerably. The accused will be home in six months, down from life, but it’s a no go. So the real issue is: Will Kaffee enter a “Not Guilty” plea to save the men and get them an “Innocent” verdict…or will Kaffee get out of the deal and have new council assigned? Well, we wouldn’t have a story if he quit and gave up now would we? It’s about this moment where the movie explodes. We see the three working day and night, talking to everyone under the sun, practicing and practicing to defy impossible odds and try to prove that the rag placed down the Marine’s throat was NOT poisioned. We see the odds are next to impossible and what an undertaking it is to have this case…Along the way we’re introduced to the Lead Council for the government, Jack Ross (Kevin Bacon in one of his better roles) and there’s always the imposing, Col. Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson). I can’t really place what exactly it is about this movie, but it works for me in so many different ways. I’ve seen in about 10 times in it’s entirety (it’s over 2 hours long, too) and will no doubt, see it at least 10 times more. The casting, as mentioned earlier is superb and I’m always a big fan of legal thrillers, especially those that take place in a coutroom (A Time to Kill and The Rainmaker come to mind). I can’t really say enough good things about this movie and I know this review can’t do it justice. If you haven’t seen this, see it! I can say no more…
Video: How does it look?
Released as one of it’s four intial titles, “A Few Good Men” has one of the most impressive pictures that a DVD can offer. No compression, no artifacts–the picure is so vivid, it has almost a 3-D effect. The picture is framed at 2.35:1 and if there was any more reason to have a widescreen version of the film, watch the opening credits then turn it over and watch them in full screen. Terrible. As you have probably guessed, there is also a full frame version included as well. Columbia full frame transfers feature a new “digital” pan and scan process that tries to make up for the widescreen problem. It is awful, it changes the texture of the screen and ruins your concentration. Please, watch widescreen!
Audio: How does it sound?
While I was suprised that this soundtrack wasn’t “remastered” in 5.1, there really is no cause for it. I’d say a good 95% of the movie is totally dialogue, with very few surround effects. I’ve heard it described as “mono” but that’s not quite right. What interested me more was that in the ending credits, it shows that the sound was mastered in a THX studio. Interesting…oh well, I guess they have their reasons. Still, the audio, even though it’s not 5.1, does nothing to detract from the quality of this movie.
Supplements: What are the extras?
No extras. But there’s hope…this was one of Columbia’s first releases and they have since gone back and made Special Editions of “Sleepless in Seattle”, “Jumanji” and are coming out with “Cliffhanger” and “In The Line of Fire” and “Glory” all movies that came out with this. The movie was popular enough (it was nominated for Best Picture) and financially successful enough (Tom Cruise/Jack Nicholson…need I say more) to merit a re-issue. After all, if they can do a Special Edition re-issue of “Mercury Rising”, well then I rest my case. Keep your fingers crossed for some kind of commentary!