Saturday, February 28, 2015

Oscar Movie Review: "A Few Good Men" (1992)

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Movie"A Few Good Men"
Year Nominated: 1993
Director: Rob Reiner
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 18 minutes
Did It Win?: No.

Two marines, Lance Cpl. Harold W. Dawson (Wolfgang Bodison) and PFC. Louden Downey (James Marshall), stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are accused of murdering a fellow Marine named PFC. William Santiago. Despite the request of Internal Affairs Special Agent Lt. Commander JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore) to defend the accused marines, a young naval lawyer Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise), who has a history of plea bargaining, is assigned to defend them instead. As this seems like an open and shut case for the prosecution, Kaffe is initially focused on striking a plea deal, but Galloway has her own theories and believes the marines were acting under orders to give Santiago a "Code Red." After Dawson and Downey claim that is in fact what happened, their statement convinces Kaffee to take the case to trial. Kaffe now has to find a way to prove it and convince the jury.
A couple of days ago, we reviewed "Anatomy of a Murder" for Oscar movie month and mentioned that, while it was a fine movie, the courtroom drama genre had been executed better by other films since then. "A Few Good Men" is a perfect example of what we meant when we said that. This film is a fantastic military courtroom drama that, like many other court case movies, is not a whodunit. The audience knows who purported the crime from the beginning. In this case, we are aware that Dawson and Downey did in fact attack Santiago, which lead to his death. It also isn't kept a secret that they were ordered to do so and that certain facts are being covered up. The greatness of this film comes from watching the characters on screen and their interactions with one another, as well as the defense attorneys' struggles in finding ways to get around the cover-ups and to prove their clients were acting under orders. The military has its own set of rules, this is no secret, but how far we're willing to know the truth is a different matter entierly. Since they operate within their own code, in this film, it all comes down to always following orders versus listening to ones own true moral compass, even if it means getting into trouble by disobeying said direct orders. The ideas and themes presented in this movie are just as relevant today as they were in 1992.

So much of this film is anchored on good dialogue and strong performances from its cast, though the details of the movie can be somewhat predictable. Tom Cruise is great in this film and invokes a good balance between wonderful passion and carefree, charming arrogance. His quibbles with Demi Moore are really something and she is good in her own right as the morally driven and idealistic Galloway. As has been said a million times before, what really pushes this movie over the top are Cruise's interactions with Jack Nicholson, who plays Col. Nathan Jessup, the commanding officer at the Guantanamo Bay marine base. You can't talk about "A Few Good Men" without talking about the absolutely brilliant performance of Jack Nicholson. His intensity is scary as the career military man, who is passionate about his job and goes about it in the best way he knows how. He believes everything he does is for the greater good of not just his unit, but his entire corps, his career, his country, and even his God. He believes that the security he provides as a military man makes him a patriot, even if it means sacrificing the health and safety of one of his own men and being an all around asshole, and he will do whatever it takes to provide that safety. He hits every note perfectly and though there are many great performances in the movie that have more screen time than he does, Nicholson completely overshadows everyone else. His testimony scene at the end of the film is legendary and his performance alone is full of iconic, quotable lines. In the end, this movie still gives us goosebumps every time we watch it.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 10/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 81%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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