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A Harvard Law School grad discovers that the law firm he has recently joined is run by the Mafia.
For more about The Firm and the The Firm Blu-ray release, see the The Firm Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 14, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Gene Hackman, Hal Holbrook, Terry Kinney, Ed Harris
Director: Sydney Pollack
» See full cast & crew
The Firm Blu-ray Review
Firm up your Blu-ray collection by adding this exquisitely-crafted Thriller.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 14, 2011
Looks like they're working you to death.
John Grisham was once one of those superstar authors whose books transcended the literary world and pulled in readers who normally don't read while also satisfying the craving of regular readers for something fresh, smart, and broadly appealing. At his peak, he was in the same class as such contemporary writers as Stephen King, Michael Crichton, J.K. Rowling, and Stephenie Meyer, all of whom have defined the modern literary era insofar as general mass appeal is concerned. Indeed, Grisham's first few novels were some of the most popular around in the 1990s; A Time to Kill, The Pelican Brief, The Client, and perhaps most notably The Firm are the author's core four, generally considered amongst his finest works with the latter often noted as his most well-rounded and successful story. It didn't take long for Hollywood to come-a-calling, and for once, the powers-that-be in Tinsletown got one right. Director Sydney Pollack's (Out of Africa) film of the same name is every bit as engaging, suspenseful, and perfectly-crafted as Grisham's source novel. Wonderfully cast, expertly paced, smoothly constructed, and enjoying a good old fashioned throwback Thriller appeal that stays true to the genre's core values and positively strikes every necessary note with impeccable confidence, The Firm is a dazzling motion picture that might not be superficially sexy but is at its core one of the best-assembled movies of the past few decades.
Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise, War of the Worlds) is in the top five of his class at Harvard Law. He's married to a beautiful young schoolteacher named Abby (Jeanne Tripplehorn, Basic Instinct) and is being courted by some of the top law firms around the country. His offers are ever-increasing, and it's clear that Mitch is on the fast-track to success. He finally receives an offer he simply can't refuse -- matching his previous high offer and increasing it by twenty percent, along with plenty of perks and the understanding that money stretches further in the South than it does in Boston or New York -- from the prestigious but relatively small Memphis firm of Bendini, Lambert & Locke. He accepts, and he and his wife pack up a U- haul and move into the bought-and-paid for house the firm has provided. Soon after the move, Abby becomes overwhelmed as Mitch becomes dazzled. She settles in, and he's swamped. She feels as if she's losing him, he travels to the Caymans with his "designated mentor" Avery Tolar (Gene Hackman, Superman) and proves his worth to the fim. Mitch's career has officially taken off, but he's about to be grounded when he's confronted by a federal agent named Wayne Tarrance (Ed Harris, The Rock) who clues him into the firm's behind-the-scenes dirty dealings. Mitch is in a perfect position to rat out the firm, and when he digs deeper into the truth at Bendini, Lambert & Locke and finds that the FBI's story has legs, he agrees to play hardball, even if it might mean the end of his career or, maybe, his life.
Story, craftsmanship, and acting. It sounds so simple in these days of hyper editing, computer special effects, and mass marketing, but there's something to be said for a movie that bests most of the rest in raw know-how, focus, and smarts. The Firm is an old-fashioned, plot- driven picture that takes its time to develop and play out, but its 150-minute runtime is only an asset. The film moves on by with extraordinary speed despite its otherwise-daunting length. That's a testament to each of the three factors that make it work so well: quality of story, strength of acting, and firmness of craftsmanship. The Firm is a smart and edgy picture made in the classical style that highlights only the essentials, places its assets perfectly, and builds a picture that's lean and both thematically and emotionally engaging, emphasizing characterization and plot, meshing the two together seamlessly, and revealing an end product that's as smart as it is entertaining. In The Firm, most of the action is a byproduct of both the suspense and the inter-character maneuvering while always flowing naturally from the story. Pure action is minimal, the picture instead deriving its excitement from the development of characters; the gathering of information; and the figurative, rather than the literal, chase. It's to Director Sydney Pollack's credit that The Firm is so delightfully exciting in a tense, edge-of-the-seat sort of way based almost entirely on dialogue and the authenticity of the performances. Isn't that the very definition of the Thriller?
Grisham's source material and Pollack's know-how in translating it into a smooth, defined, focused, and intense Thriller still isn't enough to elevate The Firm to a level where it may be considered an elite motion picture of its kind. The final element is its exemplary cast that almost to a player delivers seamless, natural performances that sell both the greater story and the smaller, more personal elements alike that altogether give The Firm its all-encompassing and realistic feel. Tom Cruise delivers another superb effort as a young hotshot attorney whose maturity is matched by his sharp intellect while his natural athleticism is just as impressive as his natural powers of perception. He may at first allow the glamour and allure of the firm's promises to cloud his better judgement, but then again he's being worked by seasoned master manipulators with experiences and wiles that even someone of McDeere's sensibilities and smarts could neither detect nor deflect. Indeed, the group that's made of actors such as Hackman, Holbrook, and Kinney are incredibly convincing in playing parts that demand of them openness and friendliness that's transparent enough to lure in McDeere but at the same time convey just a hint of mystery and suspiciousness to clue in the audience that all is not right behind the veil. There's always an uneasiness about the interactions that slowly builds over time, and even at the bookends when everything is superficially hunky-dory at first and dangerously and deadly serious at the end the picture manages to convince its viewers that the plot could go either way. The list of supporting actors -- Holly Hunter, Tobin Bell, Ed Harris, David Strathairn, Gary Busey, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Wilford Brimley, Paul Sorvino, and Joe Viterelli amongst others -- reads like a who's who of the top actors of the early 1990s. This is one of the finest ensemble casts ever put together for a film; there's not a weak point from top to bottom, and it's no wonder, then, why The Firm is such a rousing success of smart, well-put together cinema.
If there's a single element that might be called into question, it's the way the story works out at the end. Sure it has something of an anti- climactic feel to it when compared to more general cinematic conclusions, but in a sense, what's here is a more truthful ending than might be some contrived, manipulated, dishonest finale meant to pump adrenaline rather than adhere to truth and remain faithful to how such a story might plausibly play out in the real world. Of course, that's one of the main reasons why The Firm is such a great novel and film; it's fantastic, of course; implausible, maybe; unlikely, perhaps; but not at all out of the realm of possibility. The picture remains grounded in an alluring truthfulness that carries the story as much as the specifics of the plot, and that readers and viewers alike may see every aspect of the tale -- the relationships between the characters, the allure of the firm, the secrets it hides, the games of cat and mouse, the play on human emotions and temptations, and interpersonal manipulations that at first only go one way but are later turned on the same characters who so skillfully exploit others -- as plausibly real, including the ending, is perhaps The Firm's finest asset.
The Firm Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Firm debuts on Blu-ray with a handsome 1080p, 1.78:1-framed transfer that overcomes a few minor issues thanks to a strong film-like texture. A bit of grain is retained over the image, and fine details are usually quite strong. The image benefits further from excellent clarity that allows the fine appointments around the law firm offices, as well as clothing and facial textures, to stand out nicely. The color palette is lively, whether showcasing the warm interiors of the law firm or the bright outdoor locales in the Cayman Islands. Flesh tones are natural in presentation, and blacks never exhibit too much crush. A few random pops and splotches are present, as is light blocking, a few poor color gradations along skin textures, one or two instances of banding, and a few light applications of edge enhancement. Fortunately, none of these issues represent major problems; all are mild and never too terribly detrimental to the overall presentation. The Firm could probably stand to look a little bit better, but as it is this is a relatively healthy and high quality transfer from Paramount.
The Firm Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Firm is by design a sonically inconsequential film. It's built exclusively on dialogue, light music, and minor ambience. Dialogue is consistently strong and accurate, remaining perfectly balanced in the front-center of the soundstage throughout. Dave Grusin's Oscar- nominated, piano-heavy score floats into and throughout the soundstage with a spacious, airy, and natural tone, emanating primarily from the front channels. The back channels primarily carry a few light atmospherics and support the film's few moderately-heavy sound effects. The Firm just doesn't have much in terms of raw sonic muscle to flex, but Paramount's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack handles the picture's limited material with relative ease.
The Firm Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Only The Firm's teaser (1080p, 1:43) and theatrical (1080p, 2:39) trailers are included.
The Firm Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Firm is a superb Thriller that stays true to genre tenants and emphasizes story and characterization, the picture deriving its action from suspense and dialogue rather than cheap thrills that would lessen, rather than enhance, the innate intensity and style on which the movie thrives. Director Sydney Pollack does everything right, finding a perfect pacing that easily overcomes an extended runtime while framing the action so as to allow the story and thematic structure -- not flashy camerawork -- to dominate. The picture is supported by one of the absolute best casts ever assembled, all to a player turning in seamless performances. This is a rare film that's every bit as good as the novel on which it is based; that's a testament both to John Grisham's storytelling and Sydney Pollack's vision. Paramount's Blu-ray release of The Firm could certainly use more extras, but the technical quality is up to par. Highly recommended.
The Firm: Other Editions
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