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FilmDrunk Law Review: 10 Fascinating Reasons to Convict A Few Good Men

By 12.18.13

Oscar nom nom nom.


This week, in lieu of the usual Hollyweird Legal Round-Up, our Hollywood Legal Correspondent, Buttockus Finch, asked if he could instead break down the Tom Cruise classic, A Few Good Men, from a legal perspective. I nodded noncommittally as is my response to most things, and here we are. Enjoy. -Vince

Turn off your cellphones and open your Goobers, theatergoers! Today, your consigliere provides expert testimony about courtroom melodrama A Few Good Men (1992).

Background

AFGM was written by Aaron Sorkin, based on his play of the same name. Just as Joyce had Dublin, Faulkner had Mississippi and Lou Reed had all of the parts of Manhattan where taxis don’t go, Sorkin has Sorkinland, a parallel America where the men are straw, the women are terrible at their jobs, and pomposity is coin of the realm. It is here that our tale is set.

Fascinating Fact 1: This Movie Is A Six Degrees Bonanza.

This movie is over 20 years old; it was a major hit, and is remembered for exactly 9 words: Tom Cruise saying “I want the truth!” and Jack Nicholson responding, “You can’t handle the truth!” Even today, the sexual tension between them is palpable (“Ever put your life in another man’s hands?” You may be asking, but I’m not telling, Jack).

The scene is as compelling today as it ever was:

People forget that the film also includes Demi Moore as Woman Who Is Bad At Lawyering, Kevin Bacon as Captain of the Gentile Name All-Star Team (co-captain: Jon Hamm), Kiefer Sutherland as Psycho Who Later Becomes Jack Bauer, Noah Wyle as About To Audition for ER, Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Guy Who Will Win An Oscar in Another Cruise Movie and Have a Terrible Career Afterwards, and Kevin Pollak as Jew Sidekick Who Inexplicably Never Says Hand Me the Keys You F*cking C*cksucker. So if people still play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, this movie is almost as helpful as JFK.

Fascinating Fact 2: Cruise’s Character Is An Underqualified Dickweed Who Should Not Be the Defense Attorney.

1992 was a long time ago, although Cruise looked disturbingly similar to the way he does now. He was already a major star (this was a few years after Top Gun and Rainman), and if you wrote a screenplay describing the protagonist as “a brash young _______,” Cruise would magically appear before you in a wee puff of smoke. Here, he plays a brash young Navy lawyer named Daniel Kaffee.

Except, Kaffee bypasses “brash” en route to total c*ckdom. A step back: Demi Moore is Navy woman lawyer Joanne “Jo” Galloway (man’s name in a man’s world!), and she wants to represent two enlisted Marines who have been accused of murder (more on that to follow). Her superiors kibosh her request, saying that they “will assign the right man for the job [emphasis mine; lack of nuance Sorkin's].”

The rationale being, Jo lacks courtroom experience. Jo is a Lieutenant Commander, and according to my military technical advisers (read: former Mossad guys I keep on the payroll to “run errands” involving “violence”), that’s a fairly senior rank. So she’s been in the Navy for at least, say, 8 years. The superiors assign the case to Cruise, who is a Lieutenant Junior Grade, and he exposits that he has been a lawyer for 1 year and a military officer for 9 months.

He must have gotten the job because of his courtroom prowess, right? Negative, ghostrider–he has never handled a trial either. And he’s incredibly disrespectful to superior officers, not just Demi. But he gets put in charge of a murder trial because sure. That doesn’t mean Demi should get the job instead, but presumably there’s a person they could find who is actually qualified and/or not a putz.

Skipping ahead–does Cruise get his comeuppance later? Hells no. Demi, however, turns out to be a f*ckup in court. Women be ineptin’, amirite fellas?

[Additional Fun Fact: Cruise’s lawyer guy character was supposedly based on post-Hubbard Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige. Who, if you believe some of the various allegations against him, is a wee bit of a dangerous sociopath. See Going Clear for details. -Vince]

3. Fascinating Fact 3: Rob Reiner Thinks You Are An Imbecile.

Director Rob Reiner had a solid career going at the time–Spinal Tap, The Sure Thing, Stand By Me, The Princess BrideWhen Harry Met Sally and Misery preceded this. AFGM marks the end of his “watchable” period.

The story takes place primarily in Washington D.C. We are told this specifically at the outset. Lest we forget, he sprinkles in at least six shots of various national monuments, including two (2) of the Iwo Jima statue (which, you have to admit, is a very open-minded symbol for a traditionally homophobic organization).


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TAGSA FEW GOOD MENaaron sorkinBUTTOCKUS FINCHFILMDRUNK LAW REVIEWGUEST REVIEWS

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