THE PELICAN BRIEF
DIRECTOR: ALAN J. PAKULA
CINEMATOGRAPHY: STEPHEN GOLDBLATT
MUSIC: JAMES HORNER
WRITTEN BY: Pakula from the novel by John Grisham.
CAST: Julia Roberts ( Darby ), Denzel Washington ( Greg ), Sam Sheppard, John Heard, Tony Goldwyn, James B. Sikking, Wm Atherton, Robert Culp, Stanley
Tucci, Hume Cronyn, John Lithgow.
ONE WORD: You can always tell a good writer is present.
If this is not a good film, at least it is a well written novel, which leads to a very nicely done film. And it takes a director with a similar feeling for detail, to be able to show the story, without giving it up at first. It is, however, an easy premise. Even without the confused addition of a president that is too eager to get into the office and will do anything to get there, it still would make a nice story for a film, even if it isn't a soapy love story that we would rather catch.
It is exciting, and even scary, when we know that the characters are in danger, and that they have as much a chance of making it, as they do not making it. But at least, we are on the outside, and we know that they will make it anyway, or there wouldn't be a film, or story, right.?????? ( Really difficult premise to live by, hein...perfect Hollywood formula for money -- just pay a few stars ). I guess Hollywood invented the third person narrator novel for the movies.
But Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington make this movie work. Their chemistry is good, even if it isn't a love story at all. And the subject matter is rather touchy for many of us who are trying to decide if we become environmentalists, or would rather be up and coming middle class money grubbers.
And cast through out are a few people that make the film rather good. John Lithgow starts slow, and gets better as the newspaper publisher and leader, who has to deal with a sensitive problem, and at the same time believe his reporter when there is nothing left, or so it seems.
The story is centered around an intelligent student that has written a paper that suggests some foul play existed, leading to the election of the president. And in the middle of it, is a mobster like person that runs the show, with likewise precision, with people in the right places for the right situation. And, the one thing that nobody connects, anyone that has the slightest link to the case, finds himself/herself killed.....duuuuhhhhh... no one links these things I guess.
But with the clever studiousness of our two super heroes, they manage to destroy the whole thing. Life for the young lady will never be the same, and another "boss" will take over her safety. This time he is the real CIA. And the rest get indicted, if they are not dead as yet.
This is a good film, despite this reviewers cynical approach to the same story, and same attitude towards many of these action films. But under able hands, a director can make a book come alive and look much better than it really is ( I haven't read it, though -- not my kind of literature ). The direction is smooth, and well thought out. The angles are always hinting what is to come, and how. Before the shot where the car they are in is wired towards the end of the film, we can see that it is hinted at least three times that this will happen, something linking it to the ignition. Even though it has happened already. But it is done subtly. A shot through the window shows their conversation, and the ignition keys move in the corner.
And before one of Darby's first connections gets killed, the door moves mysteriously in Hitchcockian fashion.
While the film has some nice bits, Sam Sheppard being one of them, it still is an exciting film to catch, and will have your attention half way through it.
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