Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Pelican Brief

Movie Name: The Pelican Brief
Year of Release: 1993
Director: Alan J. Pakula
Stars: Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Sam Shepard, John Heard, Tony Goldwyn, James Sikking, William Atherton, Robert Culp, Cynthia Nixon, Stanley Tucci, John Lithgow, Anthony Heald, Nicholas Woodeson, Hume Cronyn, Stanley Anderson
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Late director Alan J. Pakula started his directorial career in the 1970s, when he directed a series of acclaimed films such as "Klute", "The Parallax View" and "All the President's Men". "The Pelican Brief" came out after his hit with "Presumed Innocent" and was an adaptation of another successful John Grisham book. The story follows a young law student, by the name of Darby Shaw, who writes a theoretical brief about who killed a few well known Federal Judges. This brief somehow finds itself in the hands of the FBI and also with other groups who desperately want to silence the source of its creation. In order to keep evading her pursuers, Darby contacts Gray Grantham, a reporter who may have some information on this case also from a different source. It's up to them to figure out how to remain alive and get the information to the public (this conspiracy involves many different parties, including the President).
The early 90s featured quite a diverse number of John Grisham book adaptations (all initially quite successful): besides "The Pelican Brief", there were Sydney Pollack's "The Firm" and Joel Schumacher's "The Client" and "A Time to Kill". "The Pelican Brief" featured a female central character, but the overall structure of the film was similar to other adaptations of Grisham's work: a young idealistic attorney (or law student), had to fight to expose a criminal conspiracy, while remaining truthful to his values and protect his loved ones. Alan J. Pakula managed to create an involving and suspenseful film, polished in its execution, allowing for the actors to create characters that though somewhat limited in scope, were nonetheless enticing to maintain the dynamics of the narrative (the archetypes are all there, namely the older lover, the faceless killer, the young idealistic and beautiful law student, etc). It's a film that though not surprising, it's effectively entertaining and well acted. Worth watching.