I love THE FIRM – it’s the first and very best of all the adaptations of John Grisham’s novels on screen.
The formula of an all-star cast and a top-flight director – here the incomparable Sydney Pollack – seemed to have started with THE FIRM and set the standard for subsequent versions of John Grisham (and other) novel adaptations on film.
In case the 1993 movie has passed you by, it’s the story of a good, eager, young law graduate Mitchell ‘Mitch’ McDeere – Tom Cruise, with just the right mix of intelligence and energy for the character and consequently one of my favourite of his performances – being almost destroyed by the Memphis legal firm who woo him fresh out of law school. THE FIRM like to do things in style – they only recruit the best and make sure they throw everything, including the kitchen sink, in their attempt to get their man on board.
Once Mitch has convinced his wife Abby that its the right thing to do, you can see him being sucked into their way of life and losing every ounce of integrity that makes him who he is. Whilst it couldn’t portray every nuance of the book – the crooked Moralto brothers giving Mitch a dollar to retain his services as their lawyer was a nice touch in the novel – the film presents, through David Rabe’s savvy screenplay, a fantastically intricate web that does justice (no pun intended) to Mitch’s elaborate plan to save not only his and Abby’s lives but also that of his older brother Ray, played as brilliantly as ever by the fantastic David Strathairn. And what a plan it is. I won’t spoil the rest of it because you should see it for yourself.
But before he wakes up to who THE FIRM really are, Mitch (and us) are treated to the initiation into the potentially shadowy law firm Bendini, Lambert and Locke courtesy of his mentor Avery Tolar – the peerless Gene Hackman. Add to that a nice subplot where Hackman has a secret passion for the lovely Mrs McDeere (an ace Jeanne Tripplehorn) and you’ve got a set-up topped off by the arrival of FBI special agent Wayne Tarrance (the genius that is Ed Harris), private detective Eddie Lomax (a brief but energetic Gary Busey), his beautifully brassy secretary Tammy (the fantastic Holly Hunter) and the steely-eyed, unnamed assassin played by the brilliant Tobin Bell and you’re ready to go.
See what I mean about the cast. And bouncing along with all of this, you’ve also got Dave Grusin’s peppy, jazzy score and Sydney Pollack’s deft direction. For a movie version of a book, what more could you ask for?
So if you come across this film in a bargain bin, at a car boot sale, or on the supermarket shelf, give it a go – join THE FIRM for a couple of hours and you’ll realise it’s time very well spent.