I watched A Few Good Men again the other day.
Tom Cruise has made a ton of money with huge blockbusters where his only job was to be pretty and he’s likely about as sane as Sarah Palin, but when given the chance he’s done some amazing things.
He was better than Paul Newman in the Color of Money, he was better than Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, he was better than Cuba Gooding in Jerry McGuire. All those guys won Oscars.
The courtroom scene with Nicholson is a lauded classic, but everyone misses the point. The scene isn’t about the yelling (great scenes never are). The amazing acting here isn’t Nicholson blowing up. It’s Cruise’s smugness. Every facial tic, every inflection, everything he does in the scene is designed to get under Nicholson’s skin and infuriate him. Cruise is so good here that it’s actually plausible that Nicholson does the only thing he can do to lose his encounter with Cruise – surrender to his own anger and admit his own guilt.
Cruise even does a great Nicholson impression earlier in the film.
Sadly, the above clip doesn’t do the whole scene justice – Cruise is brilliant parroting Nicholson all over the place, especially when he mocks the terms “crystal clear” and “grave danger.”
God, I wish he had just kept his publicist and stayed off Oprah.
Nicholson got all the press, Cruise was better.