Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini


The Pelican Brief

The Pelican Brief
Starring:
Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Sam Shepard, Hume Cronyn, Robert Culp, John Lithgow and James B. Sikking


Rated: PG-13 
Reviewed by: Frank  
Release date: December 17, 1993 Released by: Warner Brothers

Julia Roberts as Darby Shaw gets off to a slow start but her performance keeps the audience tight as a wire as she maneuvers to stay alive after discovering the reason for the assassination of two Supreme Court Justices. She draws Washington Herald reporter Gray Grantham (Denzel Washington) into her plight when she discloses her theory to him. Perfectly cast, he is a dignified, dedicated reporter after the story of his life. His role is one which recollects the important role of the press in American society.

The brief is the result of Shaw's research as a law student under Thomas Callahan (Sam Shepard) who clerked under Justice Rosenberg (Hume Cronyn) one of the justices who is killed. She discovers a long tale plot which has little to do with the liberal positions of the justices. Business interests in Louisiana who want to drill for oil where pelicans nest have contributed to the President's campaign and want to be sure their money is well invested. Robert Culp plays a president who is as empty headed as Reagan and who plays with hound dogs in the oval office like LBJ.

John Grisham's best seller is filled with a range of angles which must be explored to prove the theory of the brief. The most compelling proof in Shaw's mind is the killing of each person with whom she shares the brief.

Alan Pakula directs somewhat ploddingly at times. He could have moved a number of scenes to completion faster. To his credit, however, even in those valleys the tension is retained at a high level. Pakula also develops the relationship between Shaw and Grantham as it would logically be. She is interested in staying alive and he wants this prize winning story more than anything. In most films there would have been a sexy bed scene but Pakula directs more realistically. A bond develops but it is one of respect, reliance and genuine affection, signified by a final hung. Pakula accepts that men and women can work together and not end up having sex.

The flight of the Pelican Brief is filled with exploding cars, murders, chases, and a complex political plot to make money from a natural habitat. It worked for me.

  Frank Chris Jim Nina Sam Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
The Pelican Brief  A-                        A- 

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