Saturday, January 23, 2010

Movie Speech: A Few Good Men

Jack Nicolson as Colonel Nathan R Jessup, A Few Good Men (1992).

Colonel Jessup, the Commanding Officer of Guatanamo Naval Base, is being cross examined during a court martial of two of his men in respect of the death of another Marine. During the trial it is an issue as to whether Colonel Jessup ordered a "Code Red", an unofficial act of punishment, in respect of the dead Marine who was seen by Jessup to be a troublemaker and screw up. Lieutenant Kaffee, defence counsel, exchanges with Jessup with raised voices and demands that Colonel Jessup reveal the truth.

"You can't handle the truth!

Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know -- that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives; and my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives.

You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall -- you need me on that wall.

We use words like "honour," "code," "loyalty." We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punch line.

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it.

I would rather that you just said "thank you" and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand the post. Either way, I don't give a DAMN what you think you're entitled to!"

Movie Trivia:

  • The movie raises issues of moral responsibility and culpability despite following orders.

  • Writer Aaron Sorkin got the story idea from his sister, who in real life experienced a very similar incident at Guantanamo from the "Lt. Galloway" perspective as a female military attorney. In that incident, the victim was similarly assaulted by nine soldiers and was badly injured, but did not die. Sorkin initially turned the idea into a play, and then this screenplay, which was his very first.

  • Screenwriter William Goldman did an uncredited re-write of the screenplay. Aaron Sorkin was so impressed by Goldman's new dialog (as well as changes that tightened the story) that he re-wrote and re-published the play to incorporate the changes.

  • The play ran for 497 performances on Broadway.

  • The term Code Red was invented for the movie. The closest real equivalent is "blanket party".

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