(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was for a dramatic monologue, so I took inspiration from a film chock full of dramatic monologues, courtesy of Aaron Sorkin, and tried to rewrite one as a sonnet.)

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You think that you’re a match for all the threats
That deign to infiltrate the walls I guard,
But plenty live devoid of foreign frets
Because I have the nerve to keep them barred.
You think I’m cruel and callous to my core?
No, I’m the one who earns your daily chance
To vent your vapid views and blissfully ignore
The foes who’d shoot you dead at second glance!
My duty’s daily done, despite your blame,
And it does not include concern for you,
Who thinks of winning battles as a shame
Because it kills a citizen or two.
I’ve served my country thus for far too long
For you to come insinuate I’m wrong!

MPAA rating: R (solely for a surfeit of language)

I saw A Few Good Men when I was much younger, and since then have only caught the last thirty minutes or so on TV a few times, which is the best part anyway. Over time, it’s stuck in my mind as a largely boring courtroom drama that ramps up to become truly great during those last thirty minutes. My dear Viewing Companion (VC) has tried to challenge that opinion, but only recently convinced me to watch the full movie again, and I’m glad she did.

Directed by Rob Reiner, A Few Good Men has a good case for being the greatest of military courtroom dramas. Scrappy but inexperienced Navy lawyer Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) is chosen for a case that his superiors would like to forget: the court-martial of two Guantanamo Bay Marines (Wolfgang Bodison, James Marshall) who killed one of their fellow soldiers in what many suspect to have been a “Code Red,” an illegal punishment carried out within a unit. The higher-ups, including Colonel Nathan R. Jessup, insist the Code Red isn’t true, but Kaffee, with some prodding by a fellow officer (Demi Moore), takes a chance to prove the unprovable.

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Aaron Sorkin’s first foray into scriptwriting (based on his play from three years earlier) highlights what makes him such a great writer. The dialogue is often exchanged at such a rapid pace that you may or may not grasp everything said but you certainly appreciate the refreshing eloquence and intelligence behind it. It also helps to have it delivered by someone with the charisma of a young Tom Cruise or the intensity of a surly Jack Nicholson, who got a deserving Oscar nomination.

As I said, the last thirty minutes feature some exceptional performances along with the iconic lines and courtroom fireworks, but what comes before wasn’t as dry as I recalled. I do see why I thought that. I was a kid at the time, and most of the legal and military jargon, the chain of command and such, just flew over my head. I just needed to be older to fully appreciate them.

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I’m still conflicted on my ranking, though. The truth is that legal dramas just aren’t one of my favorite genres, even one as first-rate as this. Off-hand, I can’t think of one on my Top 365 List, with the exception of To Kill a Mockingbird. (Does Kramer vs. Kramer count?) However, revisiting A Few Good Men has given me enough pause to consider it List-Worthy, for now at least. It’s always nice and all too uncommon that a film is better than you remember.

Best line: (Colonel Jessup) “You can’t handle the truth!” [I count the whole subsequent monologue too, but I won’t put it all here. Go watch it instead.]


Rank: List-Worthy


© 2019 S.G. Liput
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