in Oscars Fortnight, Review

A Few Good Men (1992)

The 65th Academy Awards (1993)
Nominations: 4
Wins: 0

A Few Good Men is totally 90s. It stars Tom Cruise and Demi Moore. It’s Rob Reiner. It’s got the Castle Rock logo—Seinfeld vibes intensifying. This is an era where a courtroom drama could be a top ten grossing film of the year (it was number 7 for 1992). I mean, it’s got the line. You know? The one about the truth! He can’t handle it! How many times has that been spoofed on The Critic?

Not to continue on this tangent, but I’d bet money this was among the most spoofed 90s films on The Critic along with Scent of a Woman and Jurassic Park. This film was the 90s. I’m not sure why I’d never seen A Few Good Men before. I’m not sure why it’s not easily available on streaming or to rent. I had to buy this movie for $12.99 on Amazon Prime to watch it. Was it worth it? Let’s find out.

A Few Good Men is really the beginning of Aaron Sorkin. Long before Sorkin became such a polarizing figure, he was a struggling playwright bartending on Broadway. He actually wrote a good chunk of A Few Good on cocktail napkins. The idea originating from Sorkin’s sister, Deborah, a lawyer who was going to defend a group of Marines at Guantanamo Bay for being told to violently haze another marine by a senior officer. Sorkin transcribed these cocktail napkins onto a Macintosh, bumped the crime of hazing up to accidental murder and sold the rights to the play in 1988 to producer David Brown. Throw in some huge stars, a director on a hot streak, and you’ve got a bonafide classic.

I was curious though. Sure, I knew THE line but I really didn’t know anything leading up to it. What was the rest of the movie like? How much of the movie is the trial? Why is Kevin Pollack so highly billed? Let’s answer the first question. What makes the first chunk of the movie entertaining is we get to see the cocky rookie lawyer Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise), along with the disciplined commander JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore) and wise-cracking Lieutenant Sam Weinberg (Kevin Pollak) build their case. They interview people and do all the homework. This is an aspect I think gets overshadowed in a lot of courtroom dramas.

Another huge bonus for A Few Good Men is the side Kaffee’s team takes on the case. This isn’t another one of those movies where someone is trying to prove someone else is completely innocent of a crime. Kaffee is defending two men (Wolfgang Bodison and James Marshall) who did in fact attack a man and that man died. They did it. The challenge is to convince the court that their superior officer, Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson), ordered them to do it.

I can’t think of a more daunting task then trying to get Jack Nicholson to break. The dude is straight up scary in this movie. Joker scary. You’d be hard pressed to find a more intimidating presence in the early 90s. He’s great. But Cruise is great too. I think it’s easy to forget he used to really challenge himself with roles and I think he really nails it. I’ve been on a bit of a Cruise kick this year watching all the Mission Impossibles. He’s solid in those films but rarely shows the same level of anger and vulnerability that he shows in a film like A Few Good Men.

This is solid popcorn munching blockbuster filmmaking. A worthy purcahse. It was a hit. Got a few award noms (won none) and jump started the career of Aaron Sorkin. I’ll let you be the judge of whether or not that was a good thing. I think it’s a good thing. Though I’m sure there are plenty who would say “It stinks.”