The story line of A Few Good Men is hardly novel: the macho world of the U.S. Marines with its own code of morality. When two young privates are court-martialed after killing one of their peers, a crusading attorney with the Navy’s Internal Affairs (Demi Moore) suspects the truth will be hidden with a cover-up. She makes it her mission to provoke the defence attorney (Tom Cruise) into working for his clients rather than going along with the cover-up.
The movie tries—briefly—to raise the question of whether “just following orders, sir” can ever be justified. Unfortunately, the actors never manage to get beyond their cliché-ridden characters to develop this interesting theme.
Cruise plays a Harvard-educated, dilettante serving his time in the forces, following in the footsteps of his now-dead father, himself a brilliant lawyer. Demi Moore’s character could equally well have been male, so her casting seems based on box office appeal. I sat through the movie expecting Cruise and Moore to jump into bed at any minute but, in a surprising departure from Hollywood’s usual impulse to put sex into everything, it never happens and it is a relief.
Jack Nicholson won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his cameo role as the macho right-wing Marine Colonel who cannot tolerate anyone questioning his right to control his men. Nicholson is a fine actor and his mental collapse on the witness stand is a good piece of work.
My husband enjoyed this movie more than I did. Having served in the U.S. Air Force, he found the portrayal of the military mindset to be accurate. There’s no violence, and no sex, but some obscenity. Obviously not for young children, my 18-year-old daughter found it interesting.