A Few Good Men opened twenty years ago this week, which seemed like a perfect occasion to revisit Aaron Sorkin's first movie. Join us for this trip down memory lane. And tangent lane. And feelings lane. And the Sorkin superhighway.
1. I can't remember the last time I saw this movie from the beginning. I feel like I've seen it dozens of times, but A Few Good Men's status as a cable staple means I've seen chunks of it dozens of times. Start to finish, probably closer to five or six. (I like to re-watch things.) I forgot that the movie actually opens at Guantanamo Bay, and we watch Downey and Dawson bind and gag Santiago.
2. Last night's Scandal had a tiny shout-out to A Few Good Men. Olivia said she was going to need to talk to "Colonel Jessup," which is Jack Nicholson's character.
3. There are only two women with speaking roles in this movie. Demi Moore as Lieutenant Commander Galloway and Aunt Ginny.
4. When the movie came out, Gene Siskel said it was "really refreshing" that Tom Cruise and Demi Moore's characters "do not have a love affair." "[Moore's] character was originally a man, I'm convinced of that," Ebert countered. "And they made it into a woman without rewriting it in any way." I don't think that's true.
5. Has Tom Cruise ever looked better than he looks in Men? He has not.
6. Has Kevin Pollak ever looked more like Bradley Whitford than he looks in Men? Again, no. (Maybe those two can join up on another Aaron Sorkin project down the road.)
7. When we first see Colonel Jessup, he tells a story about Kaffee's father. "This man's dad once made a lot of enemies down in your neck of the woods," he tells Keifer Sutherland's Kendrick. "Jefferson vs. Madison County School District. The folks down there said a little black girl couldn't go to an all-white school; Lionel Kaffee said we'll just see about that." It sounds like a Jed Bartlet speech or a Casey McCall folksy-ism; it's a strange moment because Jessup's telling this casual, inspirational anecdote, but he's obviously so evil from the moment we meet him.
8. Sorkin's style is obvious through the movie, and you can physically spot him around 56 minutes into it, as a lawyer at a bar complaining about the Delaware insurance code. Having re-watched this movie three times for this story, my new wish is that Aaron Sorkin would write a legal procedural. Every episode would have a glorious monologue about justice, but it would be totally reasonable and appropriate considering the venue. More banter about the Delaware insurance code! Less blathering about the tragic state of cable news.
9. There are a few Sorkin hallmarks that make their first appearances in A Few Good Men. Is someone named Danny? Yes. Does someone have a serious complex about disappointing their powerful father? Yes. (Bonus: Is that person a Danny? YES.) Is someone not taken seriously because they appear to be too young to do their job? Yes.
10. Another Sorkin marker would be the names. The guy likes a hard-K sound in last names: Men has Kaffee and Kendrick, American President has Kodak, Sports Night has Casey McCall, West Wing has Cregg, Studio 60 has Killington and Kenwright, and Newsroom has Keefer. Somewhere, a fundamentalist family in search of a TLC show just figured out what they want to name their nine children.
11. Stephen Sondheim says that certain K sounds can feel like little jabs and that the word quick should feel like a key in a lock. That's how the word crystal works in the final courtroom seen in A Few Good Men:
And Kendrick was clear on what you wantedJESSEP
…JESSEPWe follow orders, son. We follow orders or people die. It's that simple. Are we clear?KAFFEE
Are we clear?KAFFEE
I know "you can't handle the truth" is the famous line, but it's these two "crystal"s that really knock me out in this scene. I am ready to throw all of your shit right back in your face.
12. Another Sorkin hallmark: Sam Weinberg (Pollak) says that in college he wrote a paper about Danny's father. Sam on West Wing has a similar experience in the episode "Somebody's Going to Emergency," where he meets a woman whose grandfather he wrote about in law school.
13. There's a Nintendo sitting on top of Danny's TV. I bet that guy played a lot of Q'Bert.
14. I don't usually think of Christopher Guest as being in this, but he is! He's the doctor who didn't detect Santiago's heart condition.
15. A lot of the music in A Few Good Men sounds like the music in The American President (Marc Shaiman wrote the scores for both), but the rest of the music in Men sounds like funky suspense jams that were originally composed to be the opening song for Law & Order.
16. Someone told me once that they considered the line "Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg?" to be the most anti-Semitic phrase they'd ever heard.
17. Wolfgang Bodison, who plays Dawson, was Rob Reiner's assistant on Misery.
18. Noah Wyle was apparently the second choice for this role, at least according to Sorkin's reused convocation remarks. Wyle seems so much beefier here than he looks two years later on the premiere of ER.
19. For all of its snazzy legal glory, Men has a seriously by-the-book Law & Order judge. Maybe they weren't courtroom clichés at the time — L&O premiered in 1990, though it was hardly the first TV legal drama — but lines like "you better get somewhere fast with this" sound incredibly cheesy now.
20. This movie really makes me want to watch American President.
Most Viewed Stories
Mariah Carey Is Just as Oblivious to Age as She Is to Jennifer Lopez
Why Leonardo DiCaprio’s Turn in The Revenant Will Be Hard to Beat at the Oscars
Who the Jessica Jones Characters Are in the Comics and How They Connect to the Marvel Universe
In Praise of Adele, My Fat, Flawless Heroine
What Exactly Makes Adele’s Voice So ‘Once in a Generation’ Special?
13 Movies to See (or Not) This Thanksgiving
What’s Leaving Netflix in December: The Most Urgent Movies to Watch Over Thanksgiving Weekend
20 Marvel ‘Firsts’ in Jessica Jones
Jennifer Lawrence Has Delightful Ways of Describing Chris Pratt
Eagles of Death Metal Give Heartbreaking First Interview After Paris Attacks
Latest News from VultureNow Adele Is Making Thanksgiving Football More Fun
The Panthers must have called a thousand times.Adele Impersonates Harry Potter. Also, She's Going On Tour for the First Time In Four Years.
She's been "bluffing" this whole time.Watch the Jar Jar Binks Episode of 'Will It Blend?'
Meesa dead.Empire Recap: Crackhouse Walking Tour
Cookie and Candace are all business in Philadelphia.Watch Uzo Aduba Explain What It's Like to Be Onstage at a T-Swift Concert
"You feel the radiating love from 13-year-olds coming."Paul Walker's Father Sues Porsche, Claims Wrongful Death and Negligence
Porsche has previous responded to his daughter's wrongful-death suit.Ben Affleck Is Feeling Lots of Pressure for Batman v Superman to Be Good
He's not bullshitting anybody.Mariah Carey Is Just as Oblivious to Age as She Is to Jennifer Lopez
Time? I don't know her.The Awards Show Show: Talking Creed's Rise, Uncertainty Surrounding The Danish Girl, and Leo's Chances
Plus, breaking down the Indie Spirit award noms.Fantastic Four's Honest Trailer Will Remind You That Fantastic Four Was Already Ridiculous
RIP Kate Mara's reshoots wig.John Stamos Got Three Years Probation for His DUI Arrest
And an order to attend 52 AA meetings.Setsuko Hara, Japanese Screen Legend, Dies at 95
Hara was best known for her performance in Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story.The Man in the High Castle Recap: Sayonara
John Smith is no mere two-dimensional villain. Will his loyalty falter?Victor Frankenstein Is Not Alive, Is Not Alive, Is Not Alive
Victor Frankenstein is a movie mostly about Frankenstein failing to create his monster.The Good Dinosaur Isn’t Pixar at Its Best, But the Film Still Awes and Entertains
The Good Dinosaur immerses us in a world in which a primordial vision of nature becomes tactile.Animal Collective Debuts New Album in BWI Airport; Your Great-Aunt Noreen Is Now Way Cooler Than You
The band's Floridada will go on sale for everyone else on November 30.13 Movies to See (or Not) This Thanksgiving
As recommended by Vulture's critics.Spike Lee Thinks Chi-Raq Will Inspire Sex Strikes on College Campuses to Stop Sexual Harassment and Date Rape
That’s some interesting logic.Eagles of Death Metal Give Heartbreaking First Interview After Paris Attacks
It's not an easy watch.Jennifer Lawrence Has Delightful Ways of Describing Chris Pratt
Two super-likable people continue to be likable.