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Danny Kaffee (Tom Cruise) is a hotshot young Navy lawyer fresh out of school. Brilliant but lazy, he has a reputation for negotiating quick plea bargains to avoid the hard work of going to court—and the pressure to match up to his famous lawyer father. When two Marines are accused of killing a fellow soldier, Kaffee and his buddy Sam Weinberg (Kevin Pollak) are called in to help gung-ho litigator Jo Galloway (Demi Moore) defend them. The Marines claim they were simply following orders, a trail which leads to back their base commander, Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson). Kaffee suspects that he was given the case so that it would never get to court. He decides to go after Jessup, but soon finds himself mired in a secretive world that values the code of honour above the letter of the law.

Has it really been 10 years since A Few Good Men seared the line, “You can’t handle the truth!” into the world’s collective consciousness? Rob Reiner in the DVD’s making of documentary states that he hopes the film is a timeless one. So far, so good. Aside from the boyish blush in Tom Cruise’s cheeks, the only thing that really gives the movie’s age away is the presence of Kiefer “Where is he now?” Sutherland among the supporting cast.

The unaging nature of courtrooms, military uniforms and Kevin Bacon’s face go a long way to staving off the film’s sell-by date. But it’s the script that’s the real elixir. Adapted by a young Aaron Sorkin from his hit stage play, the dialogue delivers wit and power with equal aplomb. Sure there are some cheesy lines among all the meaty ones, a tendency toward misty-eyed romanticism that Sorkin is still showing in television’s The West Wing. But when Jack Nicholson likes it you know you’re onto something special. The grandstanding finale, as Nicholson and Cruise’s characters ego-wrestle before the judge, had to be shot some 50 times to capture all the other actors’ responses to Nicholson’s lines. On every take, Reiner reveals, Nicholson attacked the lines with both barrels, relishing in reading them even when the camera wasn’t on him.

The making-of featurettes offer up plenty more nuggets, with the avuncular Reiner and affable Sorkin taking centre stage. The inspiration for the story came from a true event experienced by Sorkin’s Navy lawyer sister, and the writer goes onto explain how he (nervously) adapted the play for the screen. Reiner for his part latched onto the theme of Kaffee escaping his father’s shadow, just as he was trying to get out from under his famous father Carl. The rite of passage reading of the movie seems all the more appropriate in hindsight. Along with Born on the Fourth of July, it was A Few Good Men that provided Cruise with the bridge between the Top Gun and Magnolia phases of his career. Reiner’s commentary is more disappointing. He watches more than he talks, and fails to impart anything he doesn’t say more concisely in the making of interviews. Overall though, a timely re-release for a timeless movie.
Stuart Whitmore

Published December 13, 2001

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You can buy it HERE - next day delivery within Australia


CAST: Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, Kevin Pollack, Kevin Bacon, James Marshall, J.T. Walsh, Kiefer Sutherland

DIRECTOR: Rob Reiner

RUNNING TIME: 132 minutes (feature only)

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: December 12, 2001

Widescreen; Audio commentary by Rob Reiner; Making of documentary; From Stage to Screen featurette; Talent Profiles; Original trailer; Bonus trailers. Languages: English 5.1, German, French. Subtitles: English, Greek, German, French, Hungarian, Icelandic, Hindi, Hebrew, Dutch, Bulgarian, Turkish, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Arabic, Polish, Czech.

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