“A Few Good Men” is a 1992 legal drama film directed by Rob Reiner and written by Aaron Sorkin. The movie is based on Sorkin’s play of the same name and features a star-studded cast, including Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, and Kevin Bacon. The film explores several themes and features a range of well-developed characters, each of which have their role to play in a complex and diverse military setting. “A Few Good Men” is a movie that examines not only the rules of the United States Marine Corp but also the ethical issues that can be at play too.
Honour and Duty:
One of the central themes of the film is the concept of honour and duty, particularly within the military. The characters are bound by a code of conduct and loyalty. This sense of duty often clashes with their personal morals and ethics leaving a question to be answered. How do you draw that line between what you are ordered to do and what you ‘should’ do?
Truth and Justice:
The pursuit of truth and justice is a major theme. The film revolves around the trial of two Marines accused of murder. The characters grapple with the moral and legal implications of uncovering the truth.
Power and Authority:
The film examines the misuse and abuse of power and authority, especially in the military hierarchy. Colonel Nathan Jessup represents the epitome of power and authority, and his actions drive much of the conflict in the story. The Colonels perception of what he is allowed to do versus what he should do in his role are one of many underlying factors that bring the story to its conclusion.
Teamwork and Loyalty:
The film highlights the importance of teamwork and loyalty within the military and the legal profession. Many characters must confront the challenge of loyalty to their superiors and their duty to seek justice.
Examining the military teamwork, we see discussion in the courtroom of ‘The Curtis Bell Incident’. This is a prime example of teamwork in how a fellow marine did what was right to ensure his teammate was safe, even though it was against the orders of his superiors. This is just one incident.
When we look at the legal team, their teamwork is reflected constantly on screen. They work together at a central workplace. They share information and are not afraid to contradict each other if they feel something is wrong.
Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise):
Kaffee is a skilled Navy lawyer who initially prefers to settle cases out of court rather than go to trial.
He undergoes significant character development throughout the film as he questions why a lawyer who has never been to court is given such a high-profile case. When he realises he has the case with the expectation of it staying out of the courtroom, he becomes determined to uncover the truth and seek justice for the accused Marines. His character arc highlights themes of growth, courage, and dedication to his duty.
Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson):
Colonel Jessup is a formidable figure in the Marine Corps, and he embodies the theme of power and authority. His actions lead to the death of a Marine, and he’s at the centre of the trial. He represents the military’s commitment to duty but also the potential for abuse of power.
Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore):
Galloway is Kaffee’s colleague and plays a key role in the pursuit of truth and justice. She is dedicated to her work, and her character emphasises the importance of determination and perseverance. While the only female character in the courtroom, she most certainly holds her own and is fierce in her pursuit of truth.
There is also a feminine instinct that shows with JoAnne. The viewer sees her explaining to Daniel Kaffee about “using small words” when examining Lance Corporal Dawson on the stand. She recognises his naivety and is protecting that while sourcing the truth.
Captain Jack Ross (Kevin Bacon):
As the prosecutor in the trial, Captain Ross represents the military’s interests in the case. He grapples with the balance between his loyalty to the military and his commitment to justice. His character reflects the theme of loyalty and moral dilemmas.
The Accused Marines (Private Santiago and Lance Corporal Dawson):
Private Santiago and Lance Corporal Dawson are the accused Marines in the case. Their characters embody the themes of honour and duty, as they are caught between their loyalty to their unit and the consequences of their actions.
Overall, “A Few Good Men” is a compelling film that explores the complexities of the military, the legal system, and the human condition. The characters and themes in the film come together to create a gripping story about the pursuit of truth, justice, and the consequences of one’s actions.
While researching and writing this piece, I stumbled on something that I had no idea about. “A Few Good Men” was inspired by the true events surrounding PFC William Alvarado.
Here is the link to the article. From Collider: The True Story behind Aaron Sorkin’s ‘A Few Good Men’