(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was for an abecedarian poem, or one based on the alphabet. Here, each of the 26 lines above starts with a specific letter of the alphabet, though I had to fudge it on X. Who wouldn’t?)
It’s been several years since I last saw The Firm, the 1993 Sydney Pollack legal thriller based on a John Grisham novel. On the insistence of my Viewing Companion, I did, and I must admit I had forgotten how good it is. Though legal thrillers in general aren’t my preferred genre, The Firm is buoyed by excellent performances and a compelling lead character for Tom Cruise. Mitch McDeere is an admirable hero, confident in his skills, unflinching in his litigation, yet initially overwhelmed by the unexpected perils of a small Memphis law firm. Despite an unfortunate lapse early on, he loves his faithful wife (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and takes his duties as a lawyer seriously. Even when everyone around him expects him to be crooked for the sake of ease or safety, he remains straight, even if it puts him in more jeopardy (reminiscent of Montgomery Clift’s uncompromising priest in I Confess). His resolve to expose his criminal bosses only by legal means carries much risk, but it makes for an even more engrossing story.
On top of Cruise’s star power is the collective star power of the supporting cast, turning in good (not great) roles all around. There’s Gene Hackman as Cruise’s mentor and co-worker Avery Tolar, Gary Busey as a gun-hiding private eye, Holly Hunter as his accommodating assistant, a bald Ed Harris as a hard-nosed FBI agent, Wilford Brimley as the firm’s intimidating enforcer, and Hal Holbrook as the firm’s senior partner. In addition, Mitch’s jailed brother Ray is played by David Strathairn, whom I would never have considered to play Tom Cruise’s brother, yet it works.
Despite all the positives, the legal thriller genre has always felt overdone, in my opinion. While Mitch’s ethical solution to his predicament is entertaining, I can’t help but feel that all the intrigue and blackmail and legal dangers have been used elsewhere, perhaps in some other John Grisham book. I can’t cite anything definitive, but many legal thrillers seem to have the same shady machinations, just with different window dressing. In addition, Mitch’s tryst with a random girl on a beach, which comes back to bite him, seemed forced and out of character for someone of his integrity. He had already said no to another girl, and yet this one woman says, “You make me feel safe” and boom, he gives in. While I don’t enjoy The Firm quite as much as my VC does, it is still a riveting and well-acted drama that fits in well with other such thrillers and, to some extent, exceeds them.
Best line: (Mitch, to his brother Ray) “Hey, Ray, wouldn’t it be funny if I went to Harvard, you went to jail, and we both ended up surrounded by crooks.”Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2015 S. G. Liput
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