Review: ‘The Firm’

The Firm is a very smooth adaptation of John Grisham's giant 1991 bestseller. Tom Cruise's hotshot lawyer bent on toppling his corrupt bosses could be a brother to his A Few Good Men character. Readers are in for a few extra twists in the final third of the story, as director Sydney Pollack and his trio of screenwriters have added some dramatic and ethical complexity to this yarn.

The Firm is a very smooth adaptation of John Grisham’s giant 1991 bestseller. Tom Cruise’s hotshot lawyer bent on toppling his corrupt bosses could be a brother to his A Few Good Men character. Readers are in for a few extra twists in the final third of the story, as director Sydney Pollack and his trio of screenwriters have added some dramatic and ethical complexity to this yarn.

Cruise portrays Mitch McDeere, a sought-after Harvard grad who shuns offers from big city law offices in favor of a small, lucrative Memphis concern that promotes itself as a family. Mitch’s teacher wife Abby (Jeanne Tripplehorn) smells a rat from the outset, since the firm imposes unusually rigid codes of personal behavior, but Mitch jumps in with the enthusiasm of a puppy, working all hours, currying favor with the boss (Hal Holbrook) and lunching with mentor Avery Tolar (Gene Hackman).

After two of the firm’s attorneys die in a mysterious boating accident, Mitch and Avery head to the Cayman Islands to investigate. Later, Mitch begins to suspect that the firm could be responsible for the deaths of four of its employees over the years.

Pollack has done an ultra-pro job in giving spit and polish to this star-driven, sure-fire commercial project. Close attention has been paid to story structure, the narrative is advanced in every sequence, and types of scenes are alternated carefully.

The more than 2 1/2 hour length is a bit indulgent, but pic retains its grip. One couldn’t imagine anyone better than Cruise at this sort of star turn, except Robert Redford 25 years ago. Tripplehorn gets to do a bit more than hold down the home front and expresses doubt and fury at Mitch’s long hours. Hackman turns in another sterling perf as a top lawyer with unexpected depths of pain and remorse.

1993: Nominations: Best Supp. Actress (Holly Hunter), Original Score

The Firm

Production

Paramount/Mirage. Director Sydney Pollack; Producer Scott Rudin, John Davis, Sydney Pollack; Screenplay David Rabe, Robert Towne, David Rayfiel; Camera John Seale; Editor William Steinkamp, Frederic Steinkamp; Music Dave Grusin; Art Director Richard Macdonald

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1993. Running time: 154 MIN.

With

Tom Cruise Jeanne Tripplehorn Gene Hackman Hal Holbrook Ed Harris Holly Hunter
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