FiLM REViEW: A Few Good Men, 1992

Essentially a court room drama, A Few Good Men is also a David vs Goliath type thing, and a reassuring sop on American idealism vs establishment corruption.

As entertainment it works pretty well: Cruise is as charismatic as ever, as cocky young US Navy lawyer, Daniel Kaffee. We want him to win, and he does. It’s well directed, by Rob Reiner, and it captures certain aspects of US martial and civic culture rather beautifully; from the precision choreography of the US Marines in the opening scenes, to various moody shots of beautiful locations.

As docu-drama it’s pure fantasy. Reassuring feel-good fantasy, in which arrogant corruption is humbled before the law. Demi Moore’s role is a bit weird, nearly but not quite Cruise’s love interest, and more the voice of his conscience. Kiefer Sutherland and Jack Nicholson are solid as the ‘villains’.

Kevin Bacon is Cruise’s legal adversary, for the prosecution. The heart of the film is about whether or not Cuba Gooding Jr and his accomplice are guilty of murder in the death of fellow (and unhappy/unsuccessful) Marine, Santiago, who dies during an unofficial but sanctioned ‘Code Red’.

Issues of pragmatism vs idealism, and loyalty vs independent thinking are part of the meat of the plot. But it’s such a prettily shot star-studded affair that any moral heft is rinsed out in a celebrity glare. And the denouement, whilst narratively satisfying, is total hokum.

Not a great film, but enjoyable Saturday evening fare…

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