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The Pelican Brief (1993)


4/10: Ho-hum adaptation still better than The Firm
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

John Grisham's first couple of best-sellers - The Firm, The Pelican Brief and The Client - were fairly lively page-turners, but none of them received very strong adaptations to the big screen, which is a true shame. The Firm, especially, was a total mess, but The Pelican Brief is only slightly better.Two Supreme Court Justices have been assassinated. Tulane law student Julia Roberts compiles a brief, which identifies a subtle link between the two which may have been the motivation for the assassinations. She does it as a lark, not realizing that her mentor and sometime boyfriend Sam Shepard would pass it on as a document of interest to contacts in the government. Next thing she knows she is on the run from assassins and attempts on her life, with only the help of idealistic journalist Denzel Washington.The story definitely requires some suspension of disbelief to get off the ground. In the novel, it was possible because...

7/10: An Enjoyable, Star-Studded, Conspiracy Thriller
Sunday, November 13, 2016

Screen adaptations of a number of John Grisham's best-selling legal thrillers became big box office hits and "The Pelican Brief" certainly falls into this category. With an intriguing plot, numerous action sequences and a star-studded cast, it's no surprise that it did good business. The political conspiracy at the heart of the story makes this an ideal undertaking for director Alan J Pakula whose previous record of success with this type of material is highly impressive and the insidious way in which he builds up the threatening atmosphere of the piece is one of the movie's strongest qualities.Following the assassinations of a couple of Supreme Court Justices, brilliant law student Darby Shaw (Julia Roberts) does some research into any possible similarities between the two men whose political allegiances were known to be very different. Based on her findings, she then writes a brief that outlines her theory about who was responsible for the murders...

9/10: A Brief ring of truth
Monday, September 11, 2006

I haven't read this particular John Grisham novel on which this film was based, so I can't comment as to the film's faithfulness to it. I can surmise however that from reading other Grisham novels it "feels" like it might be quite close. I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong.The storyline is fairly straightforward. Why were two Supreme Court Justices assassinated? Darby Shaw, a curious law student (Julia Roberts), does a little research and writes a thesis on a possible reason. She shows it to her law professor boyfriend (Sam Shepherd), who in turn shows it to a colleague, also a lawyer (John Heard), who works for the FBI. The professor is blown up in a planted car bomb and his friend is shot dead in a hotel room. And someone wants the student dead also. She goes "on the run", and eventually turns to Gray Grantham, an investigative journalist (Denzel Washington...

6/10: The Pelican Brief
Friday, May 20, 2011

From director Alan J. Pakula (All the President's Men, Sophie's Choice, The Devil's Own), I was mistaken into thinking for ages that this was a courtroom drama, I did however know the leading stars, so for that I had to see it. Basically two Supreme Court Justices have been killed, and young law student Darby Shaw (Julia Roberts) has stumbled across a big conspiracy about it, and writes theory documents about it, that become known as The Pelican Brief. Of course her theory has the ring of truth circling it as it passes from person to person, and soon enough she realises that she is in danger from those who want to silence her. With little help from the FBI, she decides to turn to investigative reporter Gray Grantham (Denzel Washington), and there is a big discussion about how the brief could cause problems for an upcoming court case involving official people. The brief is most delicate...

7/10: You know, when you came in... I thought I was hallucinating again
Thursday, May 6, 2021

Almost three decades gone by now since the picture was released, and my overriding thought was if this occurred today in the current political climate, one of two things would have happened depending on which political party was in power. Either the potential scandal would have been swept under the rug by a complicit media, or it would have been used as a weapon to drive the president and his administration out of power. The only thing of any import would have been two Supreme Court Justices being murdered, with news stories quickly focusing on a short list to fill the positions. Speaking of which, could the film makers have possibly made Hume Cronyn look any older? His makeup made him appear over a hundred years old. I mean, he was eighty two anyway, why not let him look his own age? Baffling.As a political thriller, the story line seemed to cover all the bases with no major plot...

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