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
Comedian Doug Stanhope Says Amber Heard Is Blackmailing Johnny Depp
John Oliver Asks, ‘How Is This Not a Thing?’; Consequently, He Has Several Intense Responses to Several Great Things That Don’t Exist But Should
How Mindy Kaling’s Subtle, Cunning Lies Affected B.J. Novak’s Psyche While Filming The Office
Game of Thrones Recap: Moral Victories
Meet Randyll Tarly, Game of Thrones’ Newest Terrible Father
Begin Again Director Shades Keira Knightley Nine Ways to Sunday
That Time a Baked Sound Engineer Changed Eminem’s ‘Stan’ Forever
Veep Recap: People Hate Women
Breaking Down the Multi-Billion-Dollar Seinfeld Economy
Let’s Discuss Tonight’s Episode of Game of Thrones, ‘Blood of My Blood’
Latest News from VultureMaybe Think Twice About Filming Adele at Her Concert, Because She Will Call You Out, and Things Will Get Awkward
Who the hell brings a tripod to a concert, anyway?Here's What Kanye's Yeezus Vinyl Would've Looked Like
Very minimalist. Very chic.Watch The Fundamentals Of Caring Trailer and Help Paul Rudd Help You Help Yourself
Keep on lorrying.The Carmichael Show Season Finale Recap: Making Sitcoms Great Again
Carmichael wraps up a strong season by mixing the political with the personal.The Name's Bond, Jane Bond — Emilia Clarke Throws Her Name Into the Mix For a Female 007
With Leo as her leading man.You Know You Aren't Getting Out Of Bed Today, So Please Enjoy These Stormtroopers Dancing To 'It's Raining Men' On Britain's Got Talent
Let the vogue be with you.Nicolas Winding Refn and Elle Fanning on Neon Demon, Fanning's Physical Beauty, and a Knife-Wielding Keanu
"We are The Sex Pistols of cinema. We are punk rock in all its glam in vulgarity."John Oliver Asks, ‘How Is This Not a Thing?’; Consequently, He Has Several Intense Responses to Several Great Things That Don’t Exist But Should
In the interest of innovation.Game of Thrones Recap: Moral Victories
Yes, a girl has a name.That Time a Baked Sound Engineer Changed Eminem’s ‘Stan’ Forever
“My bad man … you wanna hit this?”Comedian Doug Stanhope Says Amber Heard Is Blackmailing Johnny Depp
"Coupled with a picture of his wife with a bruise, he was murdered on social media."Report: Someone Robbed Kanye West’s Creative Studio, But Everything Is Going to Be Okay
Roughly $20,000 worth of equipment was taken from his Calabasas headquarters, according to TMZ, but no important info was compromised.Veep Recap: People Hate Women
The nation's economy has been crumbling this entire time! Did you notice?Penny Dreadful Recap: Sweet Devotion
Let's try to figure out what it all means.The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Parents of Game of Thrones
At once achingly familiar and terrifyingly unreal.Silicon Valley Recap: Grand Opening, Grand Closing
Jared is a veritable sex machine.Meet Randyll Tarly, Game of Thrones’ Newest Terrible Father
Guess who's coming to dinner.Let’s Discuss Tonight’s Episode of Game of Thrones, ‘Blood of My Blood’
Meet the Tarlys.Listen to a Soulful, Previously Unreleased Track From Chance the Rapper and Donnie Trumpet
Called “The First Time.”Moviegoers Don’t Follow Alice Down the Rabbit Hole While X-Men: Apocalypse Does Damage at the Box Office
Curiouser and curiouser.