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Entertaining movie and fairly impressive production value, but don't come here looking for top-notch military decorum.
The movie began as a Broadway play. Live theater is continuous rehearsal for the writer and director no less than for the cast. So, it came to the screen fully formed. But it does not stand up to repeated viewing.
Most of the $33 million in production costs went for salaries. Tom Cruise got $12.5 million. Jack Nicholson was paid $5 million. Demi Moore accepted only $2 million for the chance to take on a “genderless” role. But any competent screen actors could have had the roles. In fact, Rob Lowe played the lead for a year on Broadway. Regardless of who played the parts, they would still have had to act like Sailors and Marines. Most of them failed at that and the fault lies with the director and producer, Rob Reiner.
Writer Aaron Sorkin and director Rob Reiner have no military experience and they apparently had no military support. So, the production projected an embarrassing lack of military bearing. Lacking US DoD support, Reiner apparently did not hire a military advisor. (Michael McClosky is credited as “Major Michael McClosky” but I found no corroboration for his military rank.) The most glaring evidence is in Demi Moore’s portrayal of LCDR JoAnne Galloway. We might accept LTJG Daniel Kaffee (played by Tom Cruise) whose hands are always his pockets in order to signal us that he is the cocky underachiever whose long string of successes came from plea bargaining. But there is no way that an investigator from the inspector general’ s office who is two grades above him would put up with that. It is completely unacceptable that LTJG Kaffee is eating an apple as he enters LCDR Galloway’s office. He might try it, but an IG investigator outranking him would give him a corrective interview immediately. Also unacceptable is her introducing herself as “JoAnne…, uh, Jo…” On target is the reply from 1LT (MC) Jonathan Kendrick: “May I call you Jonathan?” “No, you may not. You may call me Lieutenant Kendrick because when we have to go somewhere to fight, you Navy boys always provide a nice ride.” That is a stock response, a cliché, and a fact of life. On the other hand, it was for the audience’s benefit that COL Jessep reprimands his executive officer, LTC Matthew Markinson. “Don’t ever contradict me in front of another officer,” is the kind of warning that (a) never would have needed to be said or (b) at worst, was settled between them three years ago.
The slower of the two accused Marines (LCP Harold Dawson) still does not understand the verdict as they are led away. In the final moment, as recompense, LTJG Kaffee tells PFC Downey that he does not need an armband (his chevrons) to have honor. In return, the Private calls himself to attention and salutes the officer—which he refused to do earlier when he felt that the Lieutenant was not honorable enough to defend him. But for the Private, the dishonorable discharge is the worst possible outcome at the moment. He and the Lance Corporal were willing to suffer life in prison rather than to betray the officers who ordered them to haze (and thereby accidentally kill) their barracks mate. They were willing to accept all of the consequence of following orders. The betrayals by those officers who gave the orders and sought to cover up the murder and their roles in it is not deeply explored but only held up to view for a moment.
Naturalism is supposedly an unvarnished, journalistic recounting. Fiction is a convenient medium for telling the truth. But that is not what happens. The truth is always complicated, and how you simplify it depends on who you are. The Romantic theory is that people come into conflict when their chosen values are opposed. Even the bad guys are purposeful. But evil is powerless. Therefore, the good guys win, even when (as always) victory is purchased at a cost. In the universe of Romantic fiction, that cost brings a value worth the price. In the universe of Naturalism, even if there are "a few good men" it is not clear who they are.
I don't particularly like military films, but A FEW GOOD MEN isn't your typical military film. Corporal Dawson and Private Downey are charged with the murder of Private Santiago. You see, after Santiago asks to be transferred away from Guantanamo Bay, he ends up dead, assaulted by his fellow servicemen because he broke the chain of command and is allegedly poisoned by a rag they jammed in his mouth in the middle of the night. But something isn't right. For one, the cause of death was declared hours after the doctor spoke of uncertainty. The next problem lies in the fact that Dawson and Downey claim they were following a superior's order, which they are not permitted to question. This particular order is illegal and kept hush-hush, a Code Red, a disciplinary action done by Marines to a Marine to essentially teach her or him a lesson. The story revolves around Daniel Kaffee, a hip, young, hot-shot Navy litigator assigned to defend Dawson and Downey, charged with the killing. Unfortunately, Commander Joanne Galloway wanted the case for her own, but is stuck up in Internal Affairs while she supervises Kaffee. The two of them fly out to Gitmo to investigate the circumstances surrounding Santiago's untimely death, only to be met with resistance and disrespect from the lieutenant commanding his unit and the smug Colonel Nathan Jessep himself. This kind of treatment should not be tolerated, but those involved feel as if they must remain silent about the truth in order to be loyal to their unit. So when these two Marines are confronted with the hostile throw-'em-under-the-bus tactics of their superior officers, men they respect solely because they rank above them, they decide not to take a cowardly plea bargain and fight for the truth in court. Although this film deals with a serious matter, there is an entertaining quality to the language they use, the quips and witticisms tossed about snarkily, that adds a more fun tone to an unfunny tale. I genuinely enjoyed this film, holding us in suspense until this ragtag team develops enough evidence to prove the truth. I highly recommend A FEW GOOD MEN.
Rather formulaic and while Nicholson was great as the commander the simpering, flippant character played by Tom Cruise grated. No military organization would've allowed such a man to operate at that level given his arrogance and disdain for authority and rules. Good courtroom scenes. Outcome never in doubt.
An excellent movie! A great thriller that makes you think about patriotism, duty, honor, loyalty, and the difficult life of the brave men and women who serve and protect us.
Good story, great cast. Intelligent and interesting legal thriller. One to watch many times.
Amazing, great suspense, loved it.
Excellent through and through. Plot is convincing, as is the acting. Something you could watch again and again and still enjoy.
One of the best films I have seen in this year. It was entertaining and interesting. Great performances a must see for all. “Truly a really great movie worth the long library wait or the price to rent from a Red Box”.
One of the few good movies. Excellent casting and performances. Superbly directed by Bob Rainer. Very convincing good story.
An interesting and gripping film about our armed forces. One wonders how much of this fictional film would actually be true in real life.
This is an amazing movie!! I had to watch it for my comp class and I'm glad I did because I probably would have never picked it up otherwise. This is one of the best performances I've seen out of Tom Cruise. And I've never seen Jack Nicholson play such a jerk. I definitely recommend this movie!!
This is the first movie I had ever seen where there was no real physical action going on, and yet the suspense was extremely intense. If you have never seen "A Few Good Men" then see it, this is an excellent movie. I highly recommend this movie.
You want the truth? This is one of my all-time favourite movies. A court room drama, that keeps you on the edge of your seat. This is Tom Cruise at his very best! Jack Nicholson delivers a great and powerful performance as Col. Nathan Jessep. Other big stars like Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, Keifer Sutherland, Noah Wyle, and Cuba Gooding Jr. contribute emmensly to the excelence that is this movie.