Saturday, February 15, 2014

Movie Review: A Few Good Men

A Few Good Men
1. Short review: -- Worth first-run theater price once.

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: Demi Moore for eye candy. Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Kevin Bacon, Noah Wyle, and Cuba Gooding, Jr., for good performances. The rifle drill by the Texas Aggie Fish Drill Team at the beginning of the movie.

2.2. What I did not like: Aaron Sorkin's script. The story is good, but it is wrapped in dialogue that tries too hard to be cute.
“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”--Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft  
     What King means is that if you write a line you just love, delete it. In A Few Good Men, Sorkin ignored King's advice. He did not kill his darlings. No. He hugged them, kissed them, held them up to the light and made us look at them again.
     When LTJG Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and LCDR Galloway (Demi Moore) meet in her office, LT Weinberg (Kevin Pollack) tells her that Kaffee has successfully plea-bargained forty-four cases in nine months. Kaffee says, "One more and I get a set of steak knives." After Capt Ross shreds PFC Downey on the witness stand because Galloway did not adequately prep her client Downey, Kaffee explodes in drunken anger and calls Galloway 'Galacticly Stupid'. Galloway walks out immediately after Kaffee's tirade, but she stops in the doorway, turns, and says, "I'm sorry I lost you your set of steak knives."
     This is an example of King parading his darlings for our view. I can hear him tittering to himself, "Oh, what a clever boy I am!"
     Just tell the damned story.

     Demi Moore's performance. Kiefer Sutherland's performance. Both of them speak their lines well but they are overshadowed by Cruise, Nicholson, and Bacon. Even Wyle outshone them.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: First, Aaron Sorkin and his family. Second, the American public.

2.4. Are the movies appropriate for children to see? Yes for ages 17 and up. No for younger due to language and violence.

2.5. On the basis of viewing this movie, will I pay to see the sequel? No.

2.6. Rating and the plot in a nutshell:

2.6.1. How I rate movies:

-- I want my money back.
-- Worth a rental, not more.
-- Worth first-run theater price once. <-- A Few Good Men
-- I will pay first-run theater price to see it again. 

Running time: 138 minutes.

2.6.2. The plot.

2.7. Other:

     Why in the world am I reviewing a twenty-two year-old movie?
     I saw A Few Good Men in a theater when it was released in 1992. Liked it well enough. I have seen it on TV at least, oh, a dozen times since then. It does not wear well. Sorkin's darlings become an annoyance on the third or fourth viewing. By the twelfth viewing they are just bloody awful.
     So why did I watch this movie again and again?
     'Cause I changed.
     The first time I watched A Few Good Men I bought into Sorkin's line: Lieutenant j.g. Daniel Kaffee is the good guy; Colonel Nathan Jessup is the bad guy.
     Now I'm not so sure.
     In the climactic scene, Jessup is on the witness stand:

     Think about what Jessup said. "We live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it?"
     This is no less true today than it was twenty-two years ago.
     There is an insidious notion in the world today that we can all get along. I can live as I like, the other guy can live as he likes, and we can be, if not friends, at least civil to each other.
     This is demonstrably false.
     There are those in the world whose view is that I must live according to their precepts. Or die. I must 'walk this way' and 'talk this way' or else. How do I resist that? Sit down with them over tea and biscuits and reason away their deeply held convictions? 
     At the lunch at the O Club at Gitmo, LCDR Galloway reminds Col Jessup that the Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet sent out a memo "warning that the practice of enlisted men disciplining their own wasn't to be condoned by officers." Jessup replies that on the record he gave the memo its due attention; off the record such practices were an invaluable part of unit training.
      It does not matter if you dislike Jessup and his sentiments. It does not matter if I dislike Jessup and his sentiments. He is right. The military has long used peer pressure as a training tool. Enlisted men discipline their own all the time to get them to conform to unit standards.

     Remember the Tailhook scandal? A retired Marine gunnery sergeant said to me, "We train these men to kill and then we're shocked they don't act like choir boys when they're in Vegas?"

     Bismarck said, "Those who like law and sausages should not see either being made." The same is true for the training of soldiers. It ain't just. It ain't pretty. It's only necessary.

     Someone stands a post on that wall tonight. He ain't me, and he ain't you. We don't have to like him, but we should respect him.


2.8. Links:
IMDb review, Rotten Tomatoes review 

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