A right-wing film that left-wingers can love!
13 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
A Few Good Men is unusually morally complicated for a military drama, because it doesn't make the usual choices for you. While the act that drives the plot - the unintentional killing of an inadequate US Marine by two of his comrades, who intended only to discipline him roughly for informing on another comrade's misconduct - is obviously wrong, we are clearly shown that the soldiers on trial, underprivileged members of the American working class, are decent and honourable men.

Defending his subordinates against US Navy lawyers Tom Cruise and Demi Moore, Colonel Jessup (Jack Nicholson) is a macho monster whose religion is the Marines' book of rules (and some rules of his own), but his business in life at Guantamano is, essentially, the protection of other people's lives. By the superbly dramatic end of the film, we're really not sure whether he's the hero or the villain.

Like it or not, Western liberals and lefties like myself have to recognise that all our rights and freedoms depend on people who volunteer to put themselves in the way of harm, even if we don't always agree with the causes and campaigns that they're ordered to serve in. To deny that would put you in the position of those who, in the words of Rudyard Kipling's poem, enjoy "making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep".

Well, that's how I feel about this highly enjoyable and superbly scripted piece of film entertainment. Put it this way: whom would you rather have defending your home and family - the US Marines, or brigades of arts and humanities graduates such as myself? Before I go, though, let me point out an enormous hole in the plot: in real life, an officer in Colonel Jessup's position would have ordered the victim, Santiago, to be discharged from the services as unfit for duty long before the story even got started. The Marines don't want 4Fs, do they? But then there wouldn't have been a film ...
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