Reel-Life Law

October 18, 2012

A few good memories, courtesy of Messrs Cruise and Nicholson

Photo: Columbia Pictures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s almost twenty years since the release of Rob Reiner’s naval-legal classic (yes, it’s a genre if we say it is) A Few Good Men. Never one to miss even the most arbitrary of anniversaries, the epilogue asks what made the film so good, and why do we remember it so fondly?

Plot got the lot

For those trainee lawyers, and those who have yet to find the nearly two and a half hours it takes to watch it, A Few Good Men has a cracking plot. In it, the fresh-faced yet arrogant lawyer Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) is appointed as defence attorney to two marines ‘banged to rights’ for murdering a fellow marine. Working with his legal team of two – hey, this is the public sector after all – Kaffee seeks to challenge the system and prove his clients innocent. Kevin Pollak and Demi Moore lurk in the background, supporting glamorously.

Uniform excellence

Of course, where there’s a court, there’s a suit. In fact, several sexy suits. You have to hand it those military men (and women) – they know a good suit when they see one. OK, so there’s enough starch that they’d have trouble sitting in one position for more than ten minutes, but they certainly give Franklin and Bash a run for their money. Actually, thinking about it, this film is actually one of the reasons why sites such as Uniform Dating exist.

Wassup, Jessup?

Being a good lawyer, Kaffee wants the truth. But the truth in this case is hidden behind intricate honour systems, codes and the apparently impenetrable fortress of Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson). But like a dog after a juicy bone, the little Scientological terrier won’t give up chasing. Which leads us to one of the greatest exchanges in cinema history, written by Aaron Sorkin, later made even more famous by The West Wing, The Newsroom, et al:

Jessup: You want answers?

Kaffee: I want the truth!

Jessup: You can’t handle the truth!

One of Cruise’s great performances. If only we could watch it now and not think of him jumping up and down on Oprah’s sofa. Shame. KM

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