By Marc S. Sanders
A Few Good Men really does hold up.
Anyone with even minimal movie going experience can predict how it is going to end almost as soon as it starts, but that doesn’t take away from Aaron Sorkin’s first screenplay based on his original stage play.
It is well cast. For the film, no one else could ever play the intimidating and terrifying Colonel Nathan R Jessup other than Jack Nicholson. It’s not that it is just him in the role. It’s really Nicholson’s whole career legacy against the arguably still ripening careers of Demi Moore, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Pollack and Tom Cruise. Nicholson’s timed grandstanding is necessary for the role to work.
Cruise on the other hand left me feeling a little too overplayed. The role calls for cockiness, yes, but is Cruise too cocky? Some of the gags he does work. Some don’t, like impersonating Nicholson momentarily (leave that for the guys on SNL, Tom), or when he’s poking fun at Moore’s character to his own delight. It’s a little too much. Still, his courtroom scenes are like watching the best in live theatre. Those scenes play like great sport, notably thanks to Tom Cruise.
Major props go to JT Walsh as a conflicted witness. When I say conflicted, I mean he authenticates a seriously valid and personal dilemma beautifully. Had it not been for Jack Nicholson, Walsh might have had an Oscar nomination. A shame he didn’t come close to such recognition while he was alive. He was such a great character actor.
Recognition also goes out to Kevin Bacon as a well versed prosecutor/Marine. His timing exudes the experience his character has, despite his youthful appearance.
Demi Moore might be caught trying too hard, I think. Kevin Pollack is the wise mentor sitting quietly waiting for his great moments. Kiefer Sutherland is great in almost anything he does. He doesn’t ever steal the spotlight like Cruise, Nicholson or Moore but he makes a great presence; conniving and bold.
The direction is nothing special really. Rob Reiner does fine but honestly Sorkin’s script sells itself.
Yeah, yeah. “You can’t handle the truth.” Great line, but I got news for you. I’d argue there’s even better lines in this 1992 film. It’s worth revisiting.