Few Good Men: What Motivated Director Bob Reiner?

On some level, Bob Reiner’s new courtroom drama, A Few Good Men also deals with chivalry and basic human values.  However, if The Crying Game stands for audacious and visionary cinema, Reiner’s work represents the opposite: an accomplished production that exemplifies the best of mainstream cinema.

Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay, based on his critically acclaimed Broadway play, concerns the unrelenting quest to uncover the truth during a military trial. Two young Marines are accused of murdering a member of their platoon during an unsanctioned discipline action known as “Code Red.”  The Navy, in an effort to obtain a quick resolution, appoints Lieutenant J.G. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise), a young second-generation Navy lawyer known for his skills at plea bargaining, to defend the accused Marines.

Reiner says he was fascinated with the material for two reason. First, the issue of a moral dilemma in a military setting, which Reiner thinks is “universal,” for every country has military institution.  “The movie deals with the issue of where do you draw the line between being a good soldier and a conscientious human being.”  The word Nazi is actually mentioned in the play, and Reiner is quick to point out that his film makes direct allusions to the Nazi regime and the Nuremberg trials.

The second reason was Kaffee’s personal conflict, struggling to emerge from under the shadow of his famous father and establish his own identity.  Reiner, son of legendary comedian Carl Reiner, was able to relate to this struggle on a personal level.

Only a year out of Harvard Law School, Cruise’s Kaffee has earned a reputation for his glibness and facility to plea bargain. Though possessed of a brilliant legal mind, he is more interested in softball games than in the hardball game of law.  At first, the trial appears to be routine, but as more and more information is unveiled, the case begins to challenge the very foundations of the military–and the personal morality of all the characters involved. A Few Good Men focuses on a young man who has to discover his own sense of values and humanity.