One of my favourite law related movies is a Few Good Men. Though I've seen this film many times, I enjoy it every time I see it. A few weeks ago when I was flying home from Atlanta, I looked through the classic film section and saw A Few Good Men as an option. Immediately, I put it on and relaxed into my seat for the flight home.
I do not want to go into too much detail about the plot for two reasons. I dislike spoiling plot twists and most people have seen this film and I don't want to bore you. In a nutshell, two marines accidentally kill another marine by performing a "code red" and face court martial. The JAG lawyer assigned, Tom Cruise, is a hot shot who spends more time on the baseball field than in a courtroom. Fearing the two marines will not get a fair trial with Tom Cruise as their lawyer, internal affairs officer Demi Moore gets involved. When the prosecutor, Kevin Bacon, fails to reach a plea bargain, he charges the two marines with a slew of offenses. During Tom Cruise's investigation he discovers that the marines were following their superiors orders in performing the illegal code red and should not be charged with murder. Add in Jack Nicholson as a fiery commander running a tight military base and trying to cover his ass for a political appointment, and you've got yourself a movie.
There are two reasons why A Few Good Men is a great law movie. First, the script is well thought out and mimics real life. As law students, we all know that over 90% of cases settle and most criminal cases are plea bargained. I liked that Tom Cruise and Kevin Bacon battled over the best deal that could be made and that in the end, truth trumped the system. In this case, the facts suggest that the marines should not be charged with an intentional offense because they were simply following orders and did not want to kill their fellow marine. The second reason, the court room scenes were dynamic! You see a young lawyer learn to work the courtroom, and how to cross examine a witness. I especially liked seeing Jack Nicholson best Tom Cruise before backing himself into a corner and admitting he ordered the code red.
Above the law, it's rare that you find an ensemble cast who works so well together. Tom Cruise played the reluctant hero, and I enjoyed him overcome his superior officer and father-like figure Jack Nicholson. Admittedly the token female character, Demi Moore stole many of the scenes she was in. I particularly enjoyed when she puts Tom Cruise in his place early on and challenges him to become a better lawyer. I think the film would have been better if Demi Moore's character was lead counsel, as it seems that sexism in the military was the only reason they refused her as counsel.
My main dislike? Having some experience with military personnel, I know how the hierarchy works, and how officers interact with one another. As Tom Cruise's superior officer, Demi Moore would have been treated with much more deference and respect than shown in the film. In particular, Tom Cruise's character would only speak when spoken to and would have referred to her by her title. I think the reason the film did not follow the hierarchy was to build Tom Cruise's masculinity and develop his story as the reluctant litigator. More than that, I found this reeked of sexism and was disappointed with the film's treatment of women.
All things considered, I really enjoy A Few Good Men and would encourage you to see if if you haven't yet. I would give it 3.5 out of five stars!