Friday, August 28, 2009

1992 - A Few Good Men

Another industry meeting tonight, this time with a casting director, who complimented me on my ability to drop my natural Australian accent in favour ... I mean, favor ... of an American dialect. All those years growing up watching American television and films have served me well.

Although, the thought does occur that ninety percent of the actors with which I will be competing for a role can also speak with a flawless American accent, because they are American. So, I'm not quite sure that really sets me apart. Still, the casting director assured me that there are plenty of foreigners in this town that are simply unable to achieve that convincing Yankee sound. Which I guess means that I'm one step ahead when it comes to auditioning for all those foreign-person-with-an-American-accent roles.

Earlier today, I sat down to watch the next in the 1992 Best Picture shortlist...

A Few Good Men
Rob Reiner
Aaron Sorkin
(based on his play)
Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Jack Nicholson, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Pollak, Keifer Sutherland, J.T. Walsh
Academy Awards:
4 nominations
0 wins

Lt. Daniel Kaffee is the hot-shot young Navy lawyer assigned to defend two Marines, accused of murdering a weaker member of their unit. The death of the Private, they claim, was the unintentional result of a so-called Code Red (military slang for an ass-kicking), directly ordered by their platoon commander, the gruff and God-fearing 1st Lt. Kendrick, who is more than clear about his disdain for the victim. But, for anyone who is paying attention, we all know it probably goes much higher up, all the way to Col. Nathan R. Jessup, the stoically arrogant commanding officer, who undoubtedly shares Kendrick's disdain for Marines who complain.

Assisting Kaffee on the case are his trusted colleague Lt. Weinberg, who, all things considered, would rather be at home where his baby daughter is growing up, and the young and sassy Lt. Commander JoAnne Galloway, an ambitious Naval investigator with no real experience in the courtroom. What follows are several twists and turns and an adequate number of objections, both overruled and sustained, culminating in a tense climax.

A superb legal drama, A Few Good Men has deservedly won its reputation as a modern classic. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, creator of The West Wing, brings his wit and intelligence to the script, and I must admit, I have a bit of a thing for scenes in which lawyers cleverly outwit their opponents. It's just so satisfying, leaving you with a ridiculously smug grin on your face. It doesn't matter that it's all fictional - there's just something thrilling about seeing a bully get their come-uppance. And Sorkin makes sure there's no shortage of clever little victories amidst the necessary obstacles.

A brief glance at the cast list confirms why this film is so often cited during games of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Plenty of name actors here. Tom Cruise is mostly decent as Kaffee, but still enjoys the occasional melodramatic moment. Keifer Sutherland as Kendrick seems like the evil counterpart of Jack Bauer. Especially enjoyable to watch is J.T. Walsh as Jessup's ashamed executive officer. Frequent Rob Reiner collaborator Christopher Guest (pictured), almost unrecognisable in the most serious portrayal I've ever seen him give, appears as an expert medical witness in fear of losing his job. And then there's Demi Moore and Kevin Pollak and Cuba Gooding, Jr. and a pre-E.R. Noah Wyle. And let's not forget Kevin Bacon himself.

Last but most certainly not least is Jack. Ah, Jack. For the better part of the film, he seems almost too stoic and restrained. But, boy, does he let loose in the courtroom. And even though you know it's coming, there is simply nothing more gripping and exciting than his oft-parodied line, "You can't handle the truth," and the speech that follows. A truly mesmerising moment. Due, in no small way, to Rob Reiner, one of the most eclectic directors of modern cinema. He makes sure the movie contains just the right amount of tension and humour.

The brief resolution is a little sentimental, but once you've been sucked in by the intensity of the preceding scenes, the sappiness just seems to work. Plus, it may just be a product of the era in which the film was made, but the synthesised score was a tad cheesy. Not enough to entirely disrupt the mood, but cheesy nonetheless.

1 comment:

  1. I am always impressed when I watch an actor from Australia, Britain, etc. speak flawless American. It can't be that easy (the letter 'r' at the end of a word usually is a tell). Great actors like Bob Hoskins and Tom Wilkinson haven't mastered it, IMHO). I just caught Rose Byrne on a talk show and was stunned to realize she was from Sydney. Two years of watching 'Damages' and I never caught on. By the way your picture of Christopher Guest was apropos. There's a guy that can dazzle with his mastery of accents. So you are in good company, Matt.

    As for 'A Few Good Men,' a very polished and dynamically acted film that was a bit to formulaic for me. A good movie, but If I had my druthers, 'The Player' would have taken its place on the roster. There, I've gone and done it. I promised myself not to fall into the "should have been nominated" trap. With 465 films, your plate is full enough. No need to expand the list, but from time to time an omission will worm its way into the commentary.