Another John Grisham legal thriller comes to the screen, pairing Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts in a film directed by Alan J. Pakula, who is known for dark-hued suspense pictures such as Klute, The Parallax View,All the President's Men, and Presumed Innocent. The Pelican Brief isn't up to the level of those films, but it is a perfectly entertaining movie about a law student (Roberts) whose life is endangered when she discovers evidence of a conspiracy behind the killings of two Supreme Court justices. She enlists the help of an investigative reporter (Washington) and the two become fugitives. The charisma and chemistry of the leads goes a long way toward compensating for the story's shortcomings, as does a truly impressive supporting cast that includes Sam Shepard, John Heard, James B. Sikking, Tony Goldwyn, Stanley Tucci, Hume Cronyn, John Lithgow, William Atherton, and Robert Culp. --Jim Emerson
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Anyone/anything would have been better, Apr 21, 2023
Ok- so I can see there are some die-hard Julia Roberts fans out there. Too bad. Just raving about her will never improve her acting skills (an oxymoron). Actually, the poor quality of this movie is astounding, considering its director, the cast (excepting our girl Julia) and the book upon which it was based. Though he's done some much better work, when Pakula threw this film together he was clearly thinking of only one thing: "Hmm, "Presumed Innocent," based on a lawyer's book was a winner. Let's put some stars in a movie, using a screenplay drawn from a Grisham book. It can follow that same formula and it'll sell." Unfortunately, by the time the story got to the screen, it lacked any of its original punch. As for Denzel, he should be ashamed of himself. He's about as enthusiastic in this as a turtle heading for the beach. I guess he probably needed the cash for another house. Then again, he's opposite Julia. No further comment needed. -other than, save your money.
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VERY GOOD, Apr 1, 2023
I read the book and was pleased with the movie. Very pleased. It captured the essence of the book without being too glosy (like a Time to Kill) or straying too far from the source material (like The Firm).
Julia Roberts is terrific - so emotionally accessible and convincing as a brillant law student. Denzel Washington is solid - they have some nice chemistry. Also impressive is the supporting cast - I liked the score.
Why does it get 4 stars? This DVD is one where you must flip over the disc to watch the last 50 minutes. This is a joke. Not only did this movie make nearly $200 million worldwide, but it got favorable reviews.
Warner Bros. needs to re-release the picture just for the fact that I want to watch the movie without having to flip the disc over. It is the year 2005 afterall.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
ERIN BROCKOVICH MEETS JOHN Q, Oct 22, 2023
Without the star presenced of Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington, THE PELICAN BRIEF might not succeed. But these two megastars in their earlier days bring their own charisma to this Alan J. Pakula directed version of John Besteller Grisham's novel. A labyrinthine plot that sometimes seems convoluted and implausible takes the backseat to the reactions of its characters and the all too suspicious government.
Pakula, best known for ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN and KLUTE, sets up our heroes in a conspiracy involving the assassination of two elderly supreme court justices. Roberts is a brilliant law student who comes up with titular brief, and then has to turn to reporter Washington to help expose the high ranking parties responsible. It's all shameless manipulative plotting, but the leads do well and we find ourselves rooting for them. The supporting cast has its ups and downs--the ups: the ever dependable Tony Goldwyn (Joshua, Ghost) as the presidential press secretary; John Lithgow as Washington's irascible boss; Stanley Tucci as the chameleonic assassin; and John Heard as a friend of Washington's who gets snuffed. The downs: Robert Culp as a mentally challenged president, and William Atherton in a wasted role as an FBI agent.
I haven't read the book, but the movie succeeds as a paen to the talents of its leads.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Filing My Own Briefs, Mar 2, 2023
Author John Grisham has certainly had many of his best selling novels, adapted for the big screen, over the years. While I have only read A Time To Kill and The Chamber, I have seen, with very few exceptions, many of the film versions. One of the best of these movies is The Pelican Brief. From its all star cast, its sure handed director, and its exciting story, the film has it all. The problems of the movie are minor.
Law student Darby Shaw (Julia Roberts) gets more than she bargains for, when she postulates her theory on the cause of the deaths of two Supreme Court Justices. It seems that her ideas hit too close to home and her name ends up on the conspirators' hit list. Shaw is forced to team up with reporter Gray Grantham (Denzel Washington), who's also investigating the story, as well. Soon the pair find themselves dodging deadly assassins, trying to find the truth, and stay alive.
Directed by Alan J. Pakula, the film is, at times very exciting. The pairing of Washington and Roberts elevates the movie past your average thriller. They are dynamic on screen and Pakula had enough sense to surround the two leads with a great supporting cast. Tony Goldwyn, Robert Culp, Sam Shepard, the late great Hume Cronyn, and Stanley Tucci, are all solid here. The film's story never rests, even during its more sedate moments. Roberts offers Darby as a strong, yet velnerable, person--this is one of her most underrated performances. The film is not problem free--a nit pick for me has to do with the way most of the politicians are portrayed it's rather stereo typical-for the story's sake. I also had a problem with the score from James Horner-too much like his work on Sneakers.
The DVD loses points for its lack of any real extras on the disc. All you get are a few production notes--that's really it. What a shame. That said, The Pelican Brief is still a fun thriller, that's recommened
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
A good one, and well-acted, Dec 21, 2022
Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts are the leads in this dark suspenseful thriller. It's about a law student (Roberts) who discovers a conspiracy behind the murder of a couple of Supreme Court justices. Then, not surprisingly, when the bad guys realize what she knows, her own life is endangered. She turns to an investigative reporter for help, and together they go on the lam as fugitives. It's not great, great, great, but the chemistry between Washington and Roberts, the fear factor of being in hiding, and a great supporting cast will keep you too involved to risk leaving to go nuke another bag of popcorn without pushing the pause button.