“A Few Good Men”

I bought a DVD of Rob Reiner’s film A Few Good Men some time ago on one of those “Hey, this is a good movie!” sort of impulses, but never watched it until the opportunity presented itself last week. I was looking for a film to watch with some workmates – one of them is a big Jack Nicholson fan, and yet had never caught this film. So we sat down to watch it together – for the me, the first time I’ve seen it in quite a few years.

Before watching again I’d have considered it an easy fit on my Top 100 films, and after reviewing it…well, I’d still put it there, but I feel like my eyes are opened to the movie’s faults a lot more.

The music edges quite a bit toward sentimental, Kiefer Sutherland’s over-the-top and obviously negative “Christian” character gets a little tiresome, and the film’s turning points are not the strongest: both major twists – when Kaffee decides not to plea bargain, and later when he decides to put Jessup on the stand – are basically just decisions the lead character makes more or less inside his head, without much of an external prompting. That’s exactly against what we’d normally teach in a scriptwriting class, although of course we don’t want to get too beholden to official screenplay “rules” and get too mechanical with it all, but it was something I noticed.

On the positive side, Aaron Sorkin is the screenwriter, so you know the dialogue is going to be crackerjack. Jack Nicholson is pretty darn compelling, and the climactic scene where is on the stand is pretty impressive. It’d be harder to find a more impressive supporting ensemble of players as well, which includes a lot of known actors like Kevin Bacon, Christopher Guest, JT Walsh, Kevin Pollack, Noah Wyle (from ER), James Marshall (from Twin Peaks), Matt Craven, and a quite young Cuba Gooding jr. (and those are just the ones who I had heard of and remember off the top of my head).

Some people consider having Tom Cruise in a movie a drawback: I’m not one of them. I think he can be a pretty compelling actor, and here he is playing the type of character he is best at: a real self-centered jerk who is challenged to grow by the circumstances he encounters. My wife doesn’t really like the film because she finds that he’s too much of a jerk to get behind, but I enjoy watching his journey.

So I’m glad I own it, I enjoyed watching it, and I’d watch it again.

Five Faces

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