Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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A Few Good Men

Film #364

THE PLOT

Neo military lawyer Kaffee defends Marines accused of murder; they contend they were acting under orders.

Year 1, Day 364

BEFORE: The penultimate film for the marathon is also another one that I’ve been meaning to see for a long time. A Few Good Men stars Tom Cruise (last seen Risky Business way back in September) and Jack Nicholson (last seen in About Schmidt) and is penned by Aaron Sorkin (last wrote Charlie Wilson’s War). Even though I’ve seen the ending (only the famous line said by Nicholson’s character with little idea of the context), I’m still eager to see what’s in store.

AFTER: I remember watching Kramer vs. Kramer way back at the beginning of the marathon in July of last year wanting more of the trial. Season three of Battlestar Galactica has some of my favorite moments because of Baltar’s trial and Romo Lampkin’s (Mark Sheppard) ability to work the courtroom. A Few Good Men is the court film I’ve been searching for, albeit slightly disappointing.

One of the things I’ve always admired about Aaron Sorkin’s writing, and is the case here, is his ability to write in such a rapid pace yet still convey the point very clearly. When people are talking so fast that words almost blend together (think of an auctioneer only a tad slower) it ensures that the story moves along at a quick pace and the viewer remains engaged. But the problem you run into is breezing past something important to the film, talking so fast you don’t get a chance to stop and think about what was just said. Yet everything is (crystal) clear and it’s obvious what is going on at all times. Visual clues are abundant in A Few Good Men which also helps. By seeing what’s being talked about, even just pieces of paper, you can associate the words with something tangible. The film does do better than just letting you follow along though. Parts are similar to a mystery film and other parts are quite dramatic. There is Lt. Kaffee (Tom Cruise), Lt. Commander Galloway (Demi Moore), and Lt. Weinberg (Kevin Pollak) investigating the defense and figuring out how they could possibly win with no evidence, and there’s also the prosecution lead by Capt. Ross (Kevin Bacon) trying to goad Kaffee along and provoke him during the trial.

While I find the courtroom antics and the behind-the-scenes prep of the arguments to be fascinating, and well done I might add, it does leave a little something to be desired. In a way, this shows why most films or TV shows don’t show an entire trial and the process behind it. It’s not boring per se but repetitive. My attention stayed with the film from beginning to end and certain scenes built up to an intense level (the ending especially) but other parts weren’t at that same level. Part of this may be due to my expectations coming into the film, but I think it’s more due to the fact that too much of one thing is hard to pull off. At a certain point, a trial is a trial and unless there are unexpected twists with every witness, it seems as if very little is happening.

A Few Good Men delivers high on the content, but merely average on the excitement. While it provides a great look at the entire process of a trial and is constantly keeping you engaged, some of that engagement feels old hat. It’s still a film I’d highly recommend you see, it’s just that what you think you want and what you really want are two different things here. I thought I wanted a film solely about the courtroom but what I really wanted was a film mainly about a trial with a other bits thrown in. A Few Good Men is what I thought I wanted, not what I really wanted.

RATING: 4 out of 5