4.5 Stars. An absolutely stellar cast saves this film from being ever-so-slightly boring. While some of the courtroom scenes drag, the rest of the script is tight and packed with light humor in appropriate moments.
Two marines, Downey and Dawson, are accused of murdering private Santiago during a disciplinary procedure known unofficially as a Code Red. Assigned to represent them is naval lawyer Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and Lt. Sam Weinberg (Kevin Pollak), joined by internal affairs officer Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore). The chain of command extending downward from Col. Nathan R. Jessep (Jack Nicholson) denies ordering the Code Red, so Dawson and Downey's only hope is if Kaffee can prove they were following orders given to them from above.
Kaffee and Weinberg find themselves facing off with prosecutor Capt. Jack Ross (Kevin Bacon) and hard-core marines such as Lt. Jonathan Kendrick (Kiefer Sutherland), Lt. Col. Matthew Andrew Markinson (the late, great J.T. Walsh), Cpl. Carl Hammaker (Cuba Gooding Jr.), and of course, Col. Jessep.
Innocence, orders, protocols, procedures, guilt, and morals are strewn over the courtroom in a trial over the loss of one life, and potential loss of two more. Where is the line between right and wrong drawn? Kaffee (the carefree one), Joanna (the serious one) and Sam (the stable one) are forced to work as a team to uncover the truth as to what happened to break down the chain of military command the night private Santiago died.
The cast is first-rate and the performances stellar in this tense drama. The scripting does drag at times, but can't distract from the overall plot. Jack Nicholson, though his screen time is limited, steals the show with his portrayal of Col. Jessep, a war-zone hardened marine of high stature, slated for promotion. This movie is a must-see for fans of courtroom or military dramas. Enjoy!