141 Min | Crime – Drama – Mystery | February 1993
IMDB Rating: 6.5
Director: Alan J. Pakula
Starring: Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Sam Shepard
The Pelican Brief Review: Forget the plot holes. Forget the implausibility of the story. This is Grisham, the modern-day master of legal and political conspiracy and intrigue. The Pelican Brief centers on one thing, the chemistry between the on-screen duo of Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington. And they do not disappoint. Both give absolutely stellar performances, Washington as the reporter who desperately wants his story to see the light of day but is not afraid to let his compassion show through, and Roberts as a terrified law student engulfed in a situation where she is way over her head, trying simultaneously to survive and avenge the death of her lover. There is not one scene, not one bit of dialogue, verbal or non-verbal, that doesn’t make be believe everything they say, and that is a testament to the acting abilities of Roberts and Washington, two of Hollywood’s best.
For pretty much the entire second half of The Pelican Brief, Denzel and Julia’s characters work together to find proof of the conspiracy that resulted in the assassination of two Supreme Court judges, while at the same time dodging unscrupulous lawyers, heavies and an international hitman. In their final scene together, when Darby is taking the FBI director’s private plane out of the country, the bond that has grown between her and Gray is extremely noticeable. They deplane, and Gray shows Darby the headline exposing the conspiracy. Darby smiles, shakes Gray’s hand, and proceeds to walk to the car that will take her to her new location, but no, a handshake is just not enough, not after what they’d been through, so she goes back and gives Gray a huge hug, which he returns.
The mutual respect is there for all to see. No words are spoken throughout the entire scene, they are not necessary. Having read many of Grisham’s books and seen all of the movies adapted from those books, wondered how “The Pelican Brief” would stack up against all the others in the long run.