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
George Takei Calmly Dismantles All of Marvel’s Excuses for Its Doctor Strange Casting
10 Strange Stories From Ron Miscavige’s Scientology Tell-all Ruthless
Amy Schumer Demonstrates Meaningful, Sane Ways to Connect With Your Man in ‘Closer to You’
What Do Superheroes Wear In Off-Hours? Captain America: Civil War’s Costume Designer Explains
Jay Z’s Reportedly Responding to Lemonade With an Album, Because He Has Feelings, Too
Mazel! Colton Haynes Is Now Officially, Definitely Out of the Closet
The Americans Is the Best It’s Ever Been in Season 4
The Real Housewives of New York City Recap: Run the Jules
While His Peers Took Chances, Drake Doubled Down on Drake
Gwen Stefani Carpool Karaoke: She Is Not Alone — George Clooney and Julia Roberts Are Also Here
Latest News from VultureJames Blake Pulled a Beyoncé; His New Album Is Here [Updated]
Finally.Mazel! Colton Haynes Is Now Officially, Definitely Out of the Closet
Condragulations!Anne Hathaway’s Going to War in Her Next Film, and Yes, It Involves Drones
Pew pew pew.John Malkovich Made a Movie You Won’t See, Unless You Live Until 2115 and Then Remember to Watch It
Robert Rodriguez's 100 Years: The Movie You Will Never See will open on November 18, 2115.Arsenio Hall Sues Sinead O’Connor for Claiming He Gave Prince Drugs
He's seeking $5 million.Why It’s a Misconception That Game of Thrones Has Gone ‘Off-Book’
There's still a lot of book left to mine.Bethany Cosentino on Sexism in the Music Industry: ‘There’s a Lot of People in the Industry That Do Shady Things’
And her support for Amber Coffman.Which Celebrity Feuds Are Good Enough for Feud Season Two?
Please, Ryan Murphy, bring us a season of J. Lo and Mariah Carey.FX Orders the Inevitable Ryan Murphy Mini-series About Joan Crawford and Bette Davis
Feud's first season stars Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis and Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford.Adam McKay Directing Evil-Superhero Tale Irredeemable
Fox is making it.How Accurate Is The Girlfriend Experience’s Sex-Tape Plotline?
To learn more about what it’s like to juggle a straight job with escort work, I turned to Kendra, a full-time sex worker.The Story of Slender Man Will Now Frighten Tweens in Movie Theaters, Too
Screen Gems is in talks to produce a film based on the internet horror meme.Dear White People Is Becoming a Netflix Series So You Can Get More Woke
Because they know you're still appropriating.Game of Thrones’ Michael McElhatton Talks Infanticide, Kinslaying, and the Roose–Ramsay Relationship
The family that slays together, stays together — until they slay each other.Here’s Why Catherine Martell and Josie Packard Won’t Be in the Twin Peaks Revival
Without chemicals, this is hard to handle.Why Celebrities Endorse Donald Trump
There's a logic to this behavior. Presumably.Views From the ‘6 Dad’: Former Toronto Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly on Drake and Becoming Twitter Famous
The city councillor — and Canada's favorite Twitter troll — on his incredible year.Turns Out, Being Fifth Harmony, America’s Last Remaining Girl Group, Kinda Sucks
"I watched my great-grandmother be buried on FaceTime."Let’s Celebrate the Inimitable Style of The Good Wife’s Diane Lockhart
Give this woman a spinoff.What Do Superheroes Wear In Off-Hours? Captain America: Civil War’s Costume Designer Explains
"When you put Chris Evans in a size-small T-shirt, it’s a good thing."