In his three plus decade long career, Tom Cruise has worn many military uniforms. From green khakis to dress whites, he has worked his way up the chain of command and across the spectrum of the armed services. In this summer's "Edge of Tomorrow," he played a public relations spokesman for the army. One of his best known roles was in another military based film where his initial role was more about talking than fighting: "A Few Good Men," from 1992.
In "A Few Good Men," Cruise plays Daniel Kaffee, a low-key Navy lawyer who is assigned to defend two soldiers accused of murdering a fellow soldier at the Guantanamo naval base in Cuba. The rift between military policies and actual practices is showcased throughout the film. The case had been originally assigned to the much more conventional and by-the-book JAG lawyer JoAnne Galloway (played by Demi Moore), who fears that Daniel's casual approach could undermine the case. Working with them is Daniel's friend, Sam (played by Kevin Pollack). The three of them fly to Guantanamo to investigate the case and question Col. Nathan Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson), the much respected and feared commander who may have ordered the killing. Shortly after they return, the trial begins and another of Daniel's friends, Jack Ross (played by Kevin Bacon), is assigned to prosecute the case. The truth, and who can and cannot handle it, becomes key.
"A Few Good Men" has an arresting story with many great characters. Among them are the obedient soldiers accused of the crime: Downey and Dawson, who feel they did nothing wrong as they were following orders. They very much want to avoid getting kicked out of the Marines and are willing to accept whatever punishment they get.
The ensemble cast works together superbly. Tom Cruise gives one of his best performances. Daniel goes from being self-centered to being a dedicated lawyer. Demi Moore is also great as JoAnne, and the filmmakers resist the temptation to use her to overly feminize the movie. They avoid what would have been a much too predictable love story between these characters. Jack Nicholson is excellent as the intimidating Col. Jessup. His performance earned an Oscar nomination.
"A Few Good Men" is a great choice for fans of courtroom dramas.