I've never been a huge fan of John Grisham. To me, his courtroom novels have always had a mass-produced feeling about them, as if he churns them out year after year because he has deadlines to meet. He's the Tom Clancy of lawyer thrillers, and like Stephen King and other prolific novelists, Grisham seems to get quite a few of his novels rubber stamped for the big screen. While most of them such as 'The Client' and 'The Pelican Brief' have been somewhat tepid affairs, 'The Firm' somehow stands out from the rest.
Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise) is a young up-and-coming lawyer who is getting numerous offers from all around the country. Law firms want him and they're willing to pay to get him. Bonuses, small mortgages, and free cars are just some of the perks awaiting McDeere whenever he decides which firm to ultimately go with. A Memphis-based firm named Bendini, Lambert & Locke takes a keen interest in McDeere and makes him an offer he simply can't refuse. It's his dream job, his dream salary, and his dream situation.
McDeere soon finds out that the firm has quite a few skeletons in its closet, though. Mysterious meetings behind closed doors, rumblings about the mob, and a head of security who threatens more than he protects. It all adds up to a dream situation that ultimately turns into a nightmare.
What's most intriguing about 'The Firm' is that director Sydney Pollack is somehow able to keep the movie flowing smoothly and intensely through its lengthy running time of 154 minutes. Of course the movie could be shorter, but it's nice to see a complex thriller that's able to hold the viewer's attention without resorting to silly action gimmicks. Nowadays a movie like this would probably clock in at 100 minutes or so, but Pollack is able to draw out the suspense and weave an intricate tale of corruption and greed.
I love watching McDeere slowly spiral downward as he gradually finds out what is happening around him. He becomes more and more agitated as he realizes that he's stuck between a firm that may kill him if he leaves and FBI agents who will arrest him if he doesn't comply with their requests.
McDeere formulates a plan, but not like in other thrillers where we see him planning it out through a cheesy montage. This is a real plan, full of danger and intrigue. A certain amount of luck is associated with a ballsy scheme that could free him from both the clutches of the firm and the government.
Cruise is flanked by some terrific supporting performances from Gene Hackman and Holly Hunter. Wilford Brimley and (pre-insane) Gary Busey have smaller roles that really add to the feeling of dread contained within the story.
Personally, I think that 'The Firm' is the best Grisham adaption to film. That may be because I'm not a huge Grisham fan and I just don't care much for his other works, or it may be because it's a strong thriller. Or both. Whatever the reason, it's nice to finally see Pollack's film finally on Blu-ray.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
There's a sticker on the slipcover that states that 'The Firm' is a Best Buy exclusive. I'm sure it will be available elsewhere at some point, but for the time being it looks like it's only going to be at Best Buy. The movie comes on a BD-50 Dual-layer Disc and is purported to be coded for region A, although we haven't tested it for B and C.
For a catalog title, 'The Firm' looks quite good. Paramount has done a fine job digitally restoring it, although there are some unsightly blemishes along the way.
Paramount has given 'The Firm' a 1080p AVC encoded treatment. The film is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio even though its original aspect ratio was 1.85:1. A thick layer of grain has been retained to give the movie a filmic presence. I didn't notice any egregious usage of DNR to clean up the picture. Colors are natural, with skintones looking perfectly human. Blacks are fairly deep, but crushing does occur occasionally.
Video anomalies are few and far between, but there is at least one instance of minor blocking. Banding was also visible in the image as well as some scenes that have noticeable edge enhancement. Even with its few problems, Paramount's restoration of this '93 film looks decent and will please its fans.
Every time I sit down and watch 'The Firm' I'm always struck by Dave Grusin's solid piano score that provides an odd intensity to the movie. You wouldn't think a piano could create such dread, especially when the score is so happy-go-lucky in the beginning, but it does later on in the film. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track afforded to 'The Firm' provides a wonderful soundstage for the score to breathe.
Dialogue is clean and clear for the most part, but there are some whispers that get lost in the mix. Ambient sound is never really all that engaging, but the activity from the rear channels during the more action-packed chase scenes is a welcome occurrence.
This audio track isn't going to blow you away with its wonderland sonic delights, but for a catalog title from the 90s, I guess it could have been worse.
'The Firm' is a masterfully paced thriller, and it has to be with its long runtime. If it had gotten lost anywhere in the middle it could have threatened to derail everything including the suspenseful climax, but fortunately Pollack stays on track and does a brilliant job slowly building tension without revealing too much too fast. The video and audio presentations are above average, especially when it comes to the treatment of catalog releases, though it's too bad we're left with only a couple of measly trailers for special features. Still, I'd recommend picking up 'The Firm' on Blu-ray to anyone.