Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Starring: Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman, Holly Hunter, Hal Holbrook, David Straitharn, Ed Harris, Jeanne Triplehorn
By Alan Bacchus
They just don’t make ‘em like they used to. Forget the fact that the source material of the film comes from disposable airport paperback fiction. The Firm, as a movie, is one terrific picture. It survives well almost 20 years after it first came out.
I can’t think of a single film in the past couple of years that equals the sharp character-based intensity of the action, the razor-sharp plotting and the genuinely smart characters in The Firm - a thinking man’s action film. One might say the Bourne series has all of these characteristics. But those films, though exciting, are dressed down James Bond action films.
The events in The Firm could actually happen, which makes the audience indentify with our hero’s predicament and cheer him on even more as he navigates out of harm’s way. Tom Cruise plays Mitch McDeere, a talented lawyer who just graduated with honours from Harvard Law School and is recruited into a small Memphis firm with southern charm and a whole lot of money. It doesn't take long for Mitch and his wife Abby to figure out that there's a cult-like devotion going on here. And when the FBI approach Mitch about the nefarious dealings of the firm, he knows he's in deep sh*t.
Soon Mitch finds himself in the ultimate quandary – turn into a whistleblower but sacrifice his career and go into state protection or stay with the firm and sacrifice all his ethics for a good paycheque and possibly go to jail. Sydney Pollack, along with his chief writer Robert Towne and of course John Grisham, engineer an ingenious third act escape plan for McDeere, which might just allow him to best the firm and the FBI, save his brother from prison and not get disbarred.
The Firm has the stakes and pace of an action film, yet there's only one chase scene. It’s a fun run through the city of Memphis, Cruise in his four-figure suit with briefcase in hand fleeing from a stone cold killer. It's a great scene, but the genius of this film is creating the same level of tension through the complex shuffling of paper and without violence. Hell, Wilford Brimley plays the heavy. And he's great!
Dave Grusin's score is a bit of brilliance as well. While today's scores continually recycle the aggressive and complex string arrangements of Hans Zimmer or James Newton Howard, Grusin uses only one instrument, the piano. Every bit of music in the film is created with the piano. It's just one of the risky but ultimately inspired directorial choices for the late great Sydney Pollack (RIP).
The Firm is available on Blu-ray from Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment.