Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A FEW GOOD MEN: Blu-ray (Columbia 1992) Sony Home Entertainment

In hindsight Rob Reiner’s A Few Good Men (1992) represents the last of the taut and compelling court room melodrama that were once quite popular throughout the 1980s and early 90s. Based on Aaron Sorkin's hard hitting play, itself a darkly deconstructed critique of the U.S. military complex, the film is a superior example of the court room drama. The original idea for the play came from Sorkin's sister, who was at the time defending three marines over the near death hazing of another marine at the behest of their superior officer. It's rumored that Sorkin wrote the rough outline for his play on a cocktail napkin before dashing off the prose and then launching into the play's off Broadway debut. The deal Sorkin made with executive David Brown for the film rights is rumored to have been in the six figures. Not bad for an as yet then unproven play. 

The screenplay, also by Sorkin, stays very close to the play's origins. After Private William Santiago (Michael DeLorenzo) is brutally hazed inside his barracks at Guantanamo Bay – and dies as a result of injuries sustained - his fellow marines, Lance Cpl. Harold Lawson (Wolfgang Bodison) and Pfc. Louden Downey (James Marshall) are brought to trial. Downey’s aunt has hired Cmdr. JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore) to represent him. However, JoAnne quickly realizes that she needs additional legal council on her side.

Jo’ gets Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) assigned to the case – an error in judgment that forces Kaffee to reconsider why he became a lawyer in the first place. If it were up to Kaffee, he would never practice law. But beneath his devil-may-care attitude, Kaffee harbors a deeper concern – he just may not be cut out to serve as a trial attorney.

The defense eventually concocted by Kaffee pivots on the discovery of a ‘code red’ having been instated by military supervisor, Col. Nathan R. Jessup (Jack Nicholson) to teach Santiago a lesson. But can Jessup’s complicity in a crime be proven?

Director Rob Reiner works his magic from an exceptionally potent screenplay. Resisting the urge to ‘open up’ the play, Reiner confines almost all of the action to a few sets, culminating in a lengthy, exhilarating showdown in the courtroom. A Few Good Men is blessed with an exceptional cast, particularly Jack Nicholson's belligerent performance as the utterly vial Nathan Jessup. Nicholson is partly playing to the strengths of his own well cultivated public persona. Ditto for Tom Cruise, who relies on his squeaky clean Top Gun image and megawatt smile to sell his character as a Cruis-ian knock off. Demi Moore give an intelligent performance as the genuinely invested attorney at law who wants to see justice served. Kevin Bacon's memorable too, as prosecutor Jack Ross.    

Sony Home Entertainment’s Blu-ray delivers the goods in hi-def; robust rich colors, solid contrast levels, razor sharp fine details. This is a reference quality disc put forth when Sony was still actively in the Blu-ray race - releasing high quality transfers of their Columbia/Tristar catalogue titles.

The audio is 5.1 DTS, yielding remarkable fidelity. Extras include an informative audio commentary, brief featurette on the making of the film, bonus trailers and production notes. Highly recommended.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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