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A FEW GOOD MEN: SPECIAL EDITION

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Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Pollak, Kiefer Sutherland
Director: Rob Reiner
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French, Spanish & Portuguese Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 138 Minutes
Release Date: May 29, 2001

“We follow orders, or people die, it’s that simple. Are we clear?”
“Yes, sir.”
“ARE WE CLEAR!?”
“Crystal.”

Film ****

To this day, Rob Reiner’s A Few Good Men remains a stellar and intense experience. I’ve seen the film many times, including in its theatrical run in 1992. I remember becoming so involved in the story and marveled by the magnificent performances. The thought that the story was both based on fact and a stage play of the same name had completely escaped my mind, but I do not doubt for a second that such incidents like the one at the center of A Few Good Men have occurred in actual military units. Rob Reiner has had mixed track record in terms of good, quality films. He’s had his great moments such as The American President and Stand By Me, then there have been numerous disasters like The Story of Us and North. A Few Good Men truly qualifies as one of the director’s greater achievements.

Adapted for the screen by playwright Aaron Sorkin, writer of the original stage play, the movie follows the trial of two marine recruits, played by Wolfgang Bodison and James Marshall, are charged with the murder of a fellow soldier at a U.S. base camp in Cuba. The cause of death was through suffocation, which was caused by a rag that was forced in the soldier’s mouth by the two, but they claim this was not an intent to kill, but strictly to train him to respect the unit and the corps. Assigned to the defense team is brash, young Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise), who’s had an impressive track record in settling cases out of the courtroom. Kaffee’s supervisor is Joanne Galloway (Demi Moore), who at first doesn’t see Kaffee as fit to handle such a case, which is more complicated than it might seem.

Some interesting facts develop along the way. The victim, who was known to be a lackluster recruit, was to be given a code red, which is an intense disciplinary act given to a recruit to help motivate his respect and honor for the corps and fellow soldiers. This code, which is an unwritten one, also gives the accused a reason not to talk, even to save themselves. Kaffee interrogates both Lt. Kendrick (Kiefer Sutherland), as well as the leader of the Cuban base, Col. Nathan Jessep (Jack Nicholson), to gain some information on the victim’s background and tactics prior to death. The prosecution, led by Capt. “Smiling” Jack Ross (Kevin Bacon), informs the defense that a code red couldn’t have been ordered because Kendrick was told not to have the victim touched. So now our case begins.

The movie ushers in nothing short of a powerhouse of acting. Cruise, who had proven himself as a true actor four years earlier in Born on the 4th of July, proves it once again with a sharp wit as the cocky and determined rookie lawyer. Demi Moore delivers perhaps one of her best performances to date as a pure tough-as-nails lawyer who provides the necessary motivation for Kaffee. Then there’s Jack Nicholson, who with only three scenes in the entire film, delivers one of his most memorable roles which includes the memorable line, “You can’t handle the truth” in the movie’s dynamite courtroom climax. There is also some standout supporting work from Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Pollak, and J.T. Walsh, as well.

To sum it up, A Few Good Men is as gripping as movies get in terms of good story pacing, terrific execution, and knockout performances. It’s a movie that you simply can’t go wrong with, and no matter how many times you’ve seen it, you still find it hard not to be riveted.

Video ***

Columbia Tri Star has taken another early DVD release and thoughtfully re-issued it in a Special Edition form. Having never seen the original DVD release, I can’t offer an opinion if the video quality is better or worse. What I can say is that the video job on A Few Good Men is of acceptable quality, presented in anamorphic perfection. Picture quality is mostly clear and sharp. There are few instances of color bleeding and soft imaging in a few scenes, but no other flaws are detected.

Audio ***1/2

A wonderful sounding disc for a film made up mostly of dialogue. The audio job on A Few Good Men puts sound to good use with the 5.1 Dolby digital presentation, in such areas as soundtrack, various background noises, and dialogue especially. A thoroughly nice sounding disc indeed.

Features ***1/2

A Special Edition re-issue from Columbia Tri Star means new added extras, and A Few Good Men should be saluted in this regard. Featured on the disc is a commentary by Rob Reiner, two exclusive documentaries; Code of Conduct and From Stage to Screen with Rob Reiner and Aaron Sorkin, and bonus trailers for this film and two other Columbia Tri Star releases, Jerry Maguire and The Juror.

Summary:

A Few Good Men is guaranteed to deliver a knockout punch with its riveting performances and wonderful storytelling. A great movie experience for both first time and repeated viewings.