Based on Aaron Sorkins stageplay of the same name, Rob Reiners star studded military courtroom drama is,in this reviewers humble opinion, the gold standard in screen acting and writing.
Tom Cruise plays Army lawyer Daniel Kaffee,a brilliant lawyer with a penchant for plea bargains.a lawyer so willing to make deals that he has never even seen inside a courtroom!
Kaffee is assigned to defend 2 marines,accused of the murder of another marine,private william santiago. helping/bullying him into taking the case seriously is naval investigator Joanne Galloway (Demi Moore). Kaffee soon starts to suspect that the murder was in fact a `code red`,essentially an unofficial order of retribution.
To win the case,Kaffee must not only have to prove the code red but also lock horns with the formidable and powerful Colonel Nathan Jessup, an absolutely barnstorming performance by Jack Nicholson.
The investigation leads to the now classic courtroom battle between Cruise and Nicholson,but i will get back to that,all in good time.
The movie is a tour de force from start to finish.the script absolutely sizzles with tension,drama and humour.The naturalness of the dialogue is a joy to hear. the characters may be stereotypes to some effect yet they seem fresh,they seem real.
Rob Reiner,who was on an incredible run which showed his almost unique gift for any genre with movie classics such as Stand By Me,When Harry Met Sally,The Princess Bride and Misery managed to surpass all of those achievements.
Here he delivers a movie which positively crackles with energy. Every scene grabs your attention,yet this is not a movie for directorial showboating,Reiner just does what the true greats should do.He allows the story to be the star.
Of course, we now come to the actual stars of the movie,and my god,what a cast it is.
Cruise,Nicholson,Moore,Bacon,Sutherland,Pollack.it just doesnt get better than this. Even in reasonably small roles,Bacon and Sutherland have to my mind,never been better.Bacon as the prosecution lawyer who has a job to do even if he doesnt like it and Sutherland as a biblebashing,fanatical marine,deliver terrific support.
Demi Moore,never the worlds best actress,more than holds her own,partially through sheer star presence which is saying something considering the 2 legends she was alongside.
Which brings us to Jack. The sheer brilliance of his performance almost takes your breath away.every second on screen,and it isnt as many as it seems,is cinematic gold. He doesnt chew the scenery like a pacino may have done,instead,he is calm,quiet,yet menacing and then explosive in his showdown with Tom Cruise.And what a showdown it is.A true battle of wills and a fascinating clash of the cream of 2 different generations of hollywood legends.
nicholsons speech is as fine a piece of acting as you will ever see and yet,and yet!!
Tom Cruise is without any doubt,better than he has ever been.he is natural,funny,intense,charismatic,.hell he is simply as good in this movie as ive ever seen from anyone. He goes toe to toe with an acting master and matches him blow for blow. For my money,its the greatest lead performance ive seen.
To think he wasnt even nominated for an oscar in a year which saw al pacino get the most obvious sympathy oscar ever given is an absolute travesty.
its a multi layered performance in a multi layered movie,a movie which bears repeat viewing after repeat viewing.its frankly the last great hollywood courtroom drama.This defined my taste in cinema. it showed me just what real star power was,it showed me what acting should be and it opened my eyes to the fact that story is above everything.
and whether you can handle it or not...that my friends is the truth.