Films he’s directed that I’ve given eight or more stars include “The Princess Bride,” “Misery,” “The Bucket List” and “A Few Good Men.” Let’s go with the 1992 drama featuring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore and concentrate on two good men.
Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Cruise) and Col. Nathan R. Jessup (Nicholson) could hardly be any more different. Kaffee is a Navy lawyer one year out of law school and already with a reputation of reaching plea bargains and avoiding the courtroom, not exactly a military poster boy. Jessup is a hard-core Marine who eats “breakfast 300 yards from 4,000 Cubans who are trained to kill me” and is in command of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
It appears Kaffee has not taken his role in the Navy, even his role in life, seriously. He’s a fun-loving guy who parties and plays a lot of softball. Whether it’s the distasteful idea of seeing two Marines sentenced to 12 years in prison for following an inappropriate order or it’s simply the incessant prodding of his co-counsel, Lt. Cdr. JoAnne “Joe” Galloway (Moore), Kaffee gets deeply involved in a case for the first time in his young career.
He becomes, in my view, a good man.
Jessup enters the movie having been proven a good man. He answered his country’s call, graduated the academy, served in Vietnam and is a rising star in the Marine Corps. His impassioned, if self-serving, analysis of his role on the wall protecting America is awe-inspiring: “You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall.”
Shouldering that responsibility, however, has led the colonel to the belief that whatever he does is good and honorable, simply because it was he who did it.
He had been a good man, one who lost his bearing. He forgot that, as important as he was, he still had guidelines to follow, even when it was difficult to do so.
Jessup’s moral decay under the intoxicating mixture of success and power can be seen reflected in so many – politicians, police, priests and others – who set out to do good, to be good men and women, but crossed the line.
That’s why we need upstarts like Kaffee to have the integrity and drive to remind us all of the lines we must not cross.
Who do you think was the more honorable character?
At last count, there are 274 movies that I’ve rated 8-10 stars on Internet Movie Database, better known as IMDb. Each Friday, I will pick one of these movies and post something about it. To make sure you miss nothing, pick one of the ways to follow me from the column to the right. As always, I deeply appreciate it if you leave a comment and share with your friends.