Not primo Sorkin or Reiner but still an extremely engaging courtroom drama with high stakes and relatable themes.
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A Few Good Men is a 1992 courtroom drama directed by Rob Reiner, written by Aaron Sorkin and stars Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Jack Nicholson, Kevin Bacon and Keifer Sutherland among many others. The film takes the audience through the trial of two marines who have been accused of the murder of a fellow soldier.
A Few Good Men is a wholly engrossing film. The simplest analogy one can use to describe it, is as a powder keg with its wick being lit. The film starts off lighting the wick and the flame slowly makes its way to the keg. Every scene flows effortlessly into the next and works towards creating a tense atmosphere. The dialogues are mostly snappy but there is also a hint of some weak lines to incite emotion. This is not Aaron Sorkin at the top of his game and it clearly shows. As Roger Ebert once wrote, the script is hell bent on spoonfeeding every single beat of the film to a point where it does not trust its audience to discern information for themselves.
I was impressed by the opening credit sequence. The synchronization shown by men in uniform for those few minutes was a thing of beauty. The film has top caliber actors performing to the near best of their abilities. We are clearly dealing with smart powerful men and (please note) woman here and the film does not skimp on showing us the cogs in their heads and how they function. There is a palpable laid back tone the film possess in the first half of its running time. The film tries to get the gravity of the situation across but for some reason fails at building the requisite tension.
When the film goes on to the courtroom floor, however, there is a jarring change in pace and tone and now to paraphrase Rihanna “Baby, This Is What I Came For”. Sorkin is in his element here and Reiner’s direction does not disappoint. The smart powerful people having snappy dialogue in spellbinding back and forths just kept my eyes glued to the screen. One cannot help but pay attention to every word that is being said. There is a lot of crucial inofrmation being slung left and right and attention to all of it is of paramount importance. The way the inofrmation is delivered never seems bogged down and boring. The actors and filmmakers make it the most riveting courthouse experience one can watch. The small games of one upsmanship, gamesmanship and small character ticks that circle back from Act 1 all make for a great second half.
The most quoted scene from the film is the explosion of the powder keg that comes after all the aforementioned build up and by god it is impressive. The moment is genuinely earned and it left me with my eyes wide open and my hand gripping the couch as tight as I could.
A lot can be said about this film and it is much loved by the general public. Aaron Sorkin is one of my personal heroes and watching anything he writes is a consumate joy. This film is a prelude to the impressive career which was yet to come at the time. But to give credit where credit is due, this film was a hugely entertaining experience as a deep meditation about ethics, morals, principles, code of conduct and priorities.
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