I’ll make no bones about it: I would be willing to eat Aaron Sorkin‘s brain if I could ingest his writing ability. That’s not a threat! I’ve written so many love letters to Sorkin’s writing ability over the years in various forums that I’m probably on some kind of restraining order watch list. Sorkin is my favorite writer working in any medium. Period. Whenever his scripts get published in any kind of form, I have them pre-ordered on Amazon by the time they finish typing the code to post them. I’m trying to get across the point that I think he’s talented. Is that coming through?Sorkin has a definite style and it is one that some don’t care for (those people usually are wise enough to stay out of my eye line), but he’s undeniably maturing as a writer. The Sorkin who wrote walk-and-talk episodes of Sports Night and The West Wing is barely recognizable in the screenplay to Moneyball (his last movie script). He’s getting BETTER. Boo.
A Few Good Men is really Sorkin’s first project. He wrote it as a play and it was performed on and off Broadway before being made into a film version that’s become iconic largely because of this scene. A Sorkin script is a heavy thing. If you’re going to be in a show or movie with his words, you’re going to have to memorize a lot of them because people talk quickly, use big words, make obscure references and if there’s a stupid person who exists in Sorkinland, we have yet to see him (I like a world where people talk up to one another instead of grunting like cavemen). These words in the hands of the best actors of the world can be incendiary onscreen. He’s written some of the great monologues in television and in film. I featured one from The West Wing in my favorite scene from season two. There he gave Martin Sheen a giant monologue where he does nothing but walk up the aisle of a church and have a one-sided confrontation with God Almighty. It’s awesome on the page, but Sheen had to make it work and he did.
Everything in A Few Good Men leads to these final seven minutes of testimony by Jack Nicholson‘s character being cross-examined by Tom Cruise. Cruise has nothing. He has nothing to fall back on if he can’t get Nicholson to crack on the stand. He puts all his chips into to a relentless pounding of this proud military scion and when a crack shows, he pounces on it and the resulting explosion that erupts from Nicholson is one of the defining scenes in his legendary career. It showcases both actors at their best, but Nicholson gets the meat of the exchange and when they compile the greatest clips of his long and illustrious career they’ll include this exchange and its really just two guys yelling at each other ignoring everyone else in the courtroom. But it’s magic. Words can be magic in the right hands, and I love seeing Sorkin conjure.