US Release Date: 06-30-1993
Directed by: Sydney Pollack
- Tom Cruise, as
- Mitch McDeere
- Jeanne Tripplehorn, as
- Abby McDeere
- Gene Hackman, as
- Avery Tolar
- Hal Holbrook, as
- Oliver Lambert
- Terry Kinney, as
- Lamar Quinn
- Wilford Brimley, as
- William Devasher
- Ed Harris, as
- Wayne Tarrance
- Holly Hunter, as
- Tammy Hemphill
- David Strathairn, as
- Ray McDeere
- Gary Busey, as
- Eddie Lomax
- Barbara Garrick, as
- Kay Quinn
- Jerry Hardin, as
- Royce McKnight
- Sullivan Walker, as
- Barry Abanks
- Steven Hill, as
- F. Denton Voyles
- Paul Calderon, as
- Thomas Richie
- Margo Martindale, as
- Nina Huff
- Paul Sorvino, as
- mobster Tommy Morolto
- Joe Viterelli, as
- mobster Joey Morolto
- Jerry Weintraub, as
- mobster Sonny Capps
- Tobin Bell, as
- The Nordic Man
- Dean Norris, as
- The Squat Man
- Karina Lombard as
- Young Woman on Beach
Gene Hackman and Tom Cruise in The Firm
John Grisham was Hollywood's go to author of the 1990s. Seven of his novels were made into major releases in that decade. The Pelican Brief would be released later in 1993. Although it was not his first published book, The Firm was his first novel to film adaptation.
At the very peak of his fame, Tom Cruise plays Mitch, the typical Grisham hero. He is a young idealist Harvard Law Graduate, who gets recruited by a small but very successful law firm in Memphis, Tennessee. He and his wife Abby move there, where their future seems financially set.
It does not take long before Abby starts to see how intrusive the firm is to their private life. All of the firm's lawyers are white married men. They had one female lawyer, but she died in a mysterious diving accident. Abby hears from some of the wives that the firm encourages the wives to stay at home and have babies. This firm seems straight out of the 1950s.
Mitch busts his ass at work with long hours and studying for the bar exam. He also soon discovers that the firm is not what he at first thought. Not only do some of the dealings seem shady but two more lawyers get killed in another diving "accident." At this point, the movie is working. The mystery of what have Mitch and Abby gotten themselves into keeps you guessing and watching.
The film's biggest problem is that it never seems to end. At 154 minutes it should have been trimmed many times over. Mitch gets in deeper and deeper with the firm, and seems to take forever to get out. His plan changes and is very complicated. Things happen, that he does not even know about, that are helping him. A simpler exit plan would have done wonders for this film.
The Firm establishes Mitch and Abby as fairly real characters. Abby came from money while Mitch was from a poor single mother. He worked his way through college. It is one of the reasons the firm is interested in him. He is hungry for money and they assume he will be easy to manipulate.
The Firm works best when Mitch and Abby find themselves in situations out of their control. The tension mounts and we wait with much anticipation for them to extricate themselves from this dilemma. Unfortunately, we wait and wait and wait.
We root for this couple. They clearly love each other. Tripplehorn has the films most romantic line. After Cruise asks if he has lost her, she replies, "I've loved you all my life. Even before we met. Part of it wasn't even you. It was just a promise of you. But these last days... You kept your promise. How could you lose me?" That sweet line comes late in the film and if Cruise had asked the audience that same question he may have gotten a different answer.
Gary Busey, Holly Hunter, and Tom Cruise in The Firm.
I agree it runs a bit long but I was still entertained by this tension filled legal thriller. The cast is good and Sydney Pollack manages to keep the storyline taut with suspense right up till the end. We're not sure just how Mitch will extricate himself and his wife from the extremely dire situation they have gotten themselves in. Eric, it really isn't all that complicated though, as long as you are paying attention. It involves over-billing and the United States Postal Service.
Tom Cruise as Mitch continued his run as the most bankable movie star in the world. He brings a fresh-faced innocence to the role of the eager young lawyer who soon has his eyes opened to the truth behind the old idiom that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Gene Hackman, who I miss very much on the big screen these days, is equally good as Mitch's mentor Avery. He exudes a world weary quality that at times seems sinister and at other times is downright avuncular. He's sold his soul to the firm but he gets one last chance at redemption.
Holly Hunter was Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actress as Tammy Hemphill, a platinum blonde, chain smoking secretary turned private investigator (see photo), in a role that totals about six minutes of screen time. She was having a great year in 1993, becoming one of just a handful of actors to receive Oscar nods in both the leading and supporting categories in the same year. She would win the Best Actress Award for her work in The Piano but lost in the supporting category to her young costar in that movie, Anna Paquin.
The Firm establishes a sense of claustrophobia early on. Mitch and Abby are trapped in a gilded cage. A cage they walked happily into hand-in-hand, not realizing the danger until the trap door had swung shut on them. As Eric said, we root for them to succeed even as they endure a problem of Mitch's own making that threatens to destroy their marriage.
The supporting cast includes Hal Holbrook as the firm's senior partner, with an evil twinkle in his eye, and Wilford Brimley plays against type as the ruthless and cunning head of the firm's security detail. Gary Busey makes the most of his two brief scenes as the private investigator hired by Mitch. There are many familiar faces in other small roles, but this is a Tom Cruise vehicle from start to finish, and he doesn't disappoint.
The Firm was a huge box office hit in 1993 and more than two decades later it remains remarkably watchable. Tom Cruise looks like he's been through the wringer by that last scene and you will feel an overwhelming sense of relief as well.
Tom Cruise in The Firm.
The Firm is the only John Grisham novel I've ever read. Even though reading it didn't turn me into his greatest fan or lead me to reading any of his other books, it's definitely superior to this watered down movie version. Very few of the many alterations to the plot are an improvement. The talented cast is the best thing about this version, anchored by Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman.
The problems with the plot mostly revolve around the beginning and the ending. From the beginning, the Firm is so odd that it makes little sense for Mitch and Abbey to accept the job with them, even with the higher salary they offer. Mitch is courted by many different law firms and yet he blindly accepts this job despite the oddities. Mitch is supposed to be a very smart hotshot young lawyer, but he never stops to consider that the Firm's offer seems to good to be true on the surface and too odd to be true beneath it.
It is the ending that differs the most from the book. In Grisham's original ending (SPOILER ALERT), Mitch makes off with millions of the Firm's money and flees to the Cayman Islands with his wife and brother. The movie goes with the blander option of having Mitch help the FBI prosecute the Firm on mail fraud. And the scene where Mitch goes to meet the mob is pure Hollywood and makes as much sense as Mitch's oft repeated phrase of Lawyer/Client confidentiality, which isn't as straightforward as the movie would have you believe.
Cruise and the rest of the cast keep the movie watchable despite the plot weaknesses. Eric calls this the height of Cruise's fame, but height of his stardom would be more accurate. He's still just as, if not more, famous, but he no longer commands the same respect as he once did. However Cruise has always been more than just a star, he's also an actor and he does a great job as Mitch. As Patrick wrote, Mitch goes through the wringer during the final portion of the film and Cruise shows every bit of his physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.
The rest of the cast provides great support. Hackman shines as Avery. His character is changed from the book and made much more sympathetic. Here he is just as guilty as the rest of the lawyers in the Firm, but Hackman makes him three-dimensional and very human. Holly Hunter is also terrific as Tammy and fully deserved her Oscar nomination despite the small amount of time she actually appears on screen. Jeanne Tripplehorn, David Strathairn, Ed Harris, and Wilford Brimley each add to the film in their supporting roles.
As both my brothers mentioned, the film definitely runs long. There's plenty of room for editing and tightening. And as entertaining and tense as the film is, even with the unnecessary changes, it could have been even tenser with a faster pace.
There are things to enjoy about this movie, but as is the case with plenty of films, you're better off reading the book.
Photos © Copyright Paramount Pictures (1993)