Release Date(s)1992 (November 7, 2017 at Best Buy, November 25, 2017 wide)
Studio(s)Castle Rock/Columbia Pictures (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: C
[Editor’s Note: This disc was a Best Buy exclusive initially, but goes into wide release on 11/25/17.]
Based on the Broadway play by Aaron Sorkin, Rob Reiner’s A Few Good Men is the story of a young Navy lawyer named Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise), who is assigned to defend a pair of enlisted Marines in what seems like a straightforward murder case. The men, stationed at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, are facing court-martial after an effort to discipline one of their own squad members goes bad, resulting in the private’s accidental death. But the defendants claim they were given an order to discipline the private, an order that’s now being covered up to prevent embarrassment to their commanding officer, a hard-charging Marine Colonel named Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) who’s about to be promoted to the National Security Council. Kaffee’s first instinct is to plea bargain the case to save his clients years in jail, but their code of honor prevents them from accepting this. Faced with potentially serious consequences if he takes the case to trial, Kaffee is tempted to hand the responsibility off to someone else. But his conscience – not to mention his co-council Joe Galloway (Demi Moore) and his friend Sam Weinberg (Kevin Pollak) – eventually convince him to persevere.
A Few Good Men is one of those rare cases in the cinema where every piece of the production just fires on all cylinders; from the writing, to the cast, the direction, and even the cinematography, everyone delivers. Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, Sports Night) is now well known for his idealistic writing, but this was his breakout work in Hollywood, made all the better by the collaboration with Reiner and veteran screenwriter William Goldman (who had worked together on The Princess Bride just a few years earlier). Every single scene is designed to increase the tension in this film, leading to a climactic courtroom confrontation between Kaffee and Jessup. And what a confrontation it is! Cruise and Nicholson are in their prime here and are simply magnificent, and every single supporting cast member raises their game to match – not just Moore and Pollak, but also Kevin Bacon, J.T. Walsh, Kiefer Sutherland, Christopher Guest, and many others. Reiner’s direction is smart and efficient, moving the drama along, hitting every note, and never wasting a moment.
A Few Good Men was shot on 35 mm photochemical film using Panavision cameras. It was finished on film for its original release, but for UHD the negative was scanned in full native 4K and giving an HDR10 color grade. It’s presented here in 2160p in the film’s 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The result is one of the best Ultra HD catalog releases I’ve seen yet for a title of this vintage. This is an exquisite film image, with a light wash of grain, highly-refined detail, and absolutely gorgeous texturing. The HDR is impressive too, rendering bright uniform whites and deeply black shadows, both with a surprising amount of detail visible. The coloring is stunning, evident right from the film’s very first shot, featuring the boldly-rendered Stars and Stripes waving over the parade ground. I actually ended up watching this disc twice through for this review, so often was my eye drawn to things I’d never noticed before. From glittering rank insignia and stripes, to skin and facial textures, the wool of Galloway’s shoulder epaulets, the subtle vibrancy of camouflage uniform fabric, the precise lettering on court documents you can actually read now, and the rich mahogany accents of the JAG courtroom – literally every scene offers some visual detail that’s impressive.
The 4K disc’s Dolby Atmos audio mix is almost as good. Obviously, this is a courtroom drama, so the film’s soundtrack isn’t exactly a sonic assault. But the clarity is excellent, the soundstage is big, wide, and natural, and the subtle sense of atmospheric immersion is terrific. There’s a rainstorm about halfway through the film that sounds incredibly realistic. In one scene, Weinberg and Kaffee are working in the latter’s apartment when Galloway knocks on the door from the extreme right rear corner of the soundstage – my head actually turned to look in the direction of the sound. Toward the end of the film, the sharp report of the judge’s gavel seems to ring in the air even after he sets it back down on the bench. And Marc Shaiman’s restrained score has never sounded better than it does here. Additional language options on the UHD disc include French 2.0 Dolby Surround, and Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, with subtitles available in English, English SDH, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai.
The only special feature on the 4K disc is a feature-length audio commentary with Reiner. The package also includes the film in 1080p on Blu-ray Disc with that same commentary, a disc that also adds the following bonus features (carried over from a previous DVD release):
- Code of Conduct (SD – 34:51)
- From Stage to Screen (SD – 13:45)
These extras are actually quite good, though obviously there’s not much material here. The package also includes the usual Digital Copy code on a paper insert.
A Few Good Men is a nearly perfect film, one that I get sucked into almost immediately every time I see it. Sony’s Ultra HD release is well worth tracking down. In terms of A/V quality, this disc ranks alongside Warner’s Blade Runner: The Final Cut as one of the best film-based catalog titles on this format to date. Absolutely don’t miss it.
- Bill Hunt