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Film Talk: Looking Back – Handling the truth with A Few Good Men

The court is now in session, but can we handle the truth? Let’s do this...

Tom Cruise and Demi Moore in A Few Good Men
Tom Cruise and Demi Moore in A Few Good Men

1992’s A Few Good Men is, without question, the legal drama flick to end all legal drama flicks. Based on Aaron Sorkin’s 1989 play of the same name, the the hallowed military courtroom film was directed by Rob Reiner, who also produced it alongside David Brown and Andrew Scheinman.

Sorkin reportedly got the inspiration to write the original play after a phone conversation with his sister who had graduated from Boston University Law School and signed up for a stint with the US Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps. She was allegedly going to Guantanamo Bay to defend a group of marines who came close to killing a fellow marine in a hazing ordered by a superior officer. The legend goes that Sorkin took that info and wrote much of his story on cocktail napkins while bartending at a Broadway theatre, and there was penned the tale that would become one of the most quoted movies of all time.

Putting together an ensemble cast including Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon and Cuba Gooding Jr, Reiner ensured that the star power of his film adaptation would be second to none. Dealing with the controversial issue of murder within the military, this flick was always going to demand a lot of attention, but would film fans and the public as a whole enjoy the cinematic version of the story?

At Guantanamo Marine Base, a serving private dies following an attack by two fellow soldiers. An investigation is conducted by Lt Commander Jo Galloway (Moore), who reveals to her superiors that she believes the private was attacked because he was going over the head of base commander Colonel Nathan Jessup (Nicholson), and was threatening to reveal a damaging secret.

Galloway believes Jessup ordered a ‘code red’ – an illegal hazing designed to silence the private. Galloway wants to be assigned to defend the two marines, however her superior is hoping that the whole affair can go away quietly. With this he denies her request and has the case assigned to Lt Dan Kaffee (Cruise), a young Naval lawyer who hasn’t ever tried a case in court and prefers to plea his cases out. Galloway warns Kaffee that if he pleads the case out, Jessup may get away with murder, and eventually convinced, Kaffee attempts to defend the marines in the courtroom. But will the trial lead to success, and in taking on Jessup, may Kaffee be biting off more than he can chew?

Grossing a total of over $243 million against a budget of $40 million, A Few Good Men was a fantastic box office success and received universal acclaim for its screenwriting, direction, themes, and acting – particularly that of Cruise, Nicholson, and Moore.

In addition to being both a critical and commercial hit, the film was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture and is still widely considered to be one of the greatest films ever made.

With a typically masterful turn by Nicholson and strong performances from a very talented cast as a whole, this flick is one that has weathered fantastically well, and is as enjoyable on the hundredth viewing as it is on the first.

Without doubt one of Jack Nicholson’s finest outings, this one deserves a place on your watch list until the end of time.

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