(out of 5)
Disappointing courtroom thriller has an excellent Ashley Judd capitalizing on her success two years earlier in Double Jeopardy. She plays a successful attorney married to a really nice guy (Jim Caviezel) who has no particular occupation except to attempt to impregnate her in the mornings and then work in the tool shed for the rest of the day. She discovers that he actually has a past when the FBI take him into custody and accuse him of a war crime involving the murder of innocent El Salvadoran civilians that he supposedly committed when he was still a marine (and had a different name). Judd, completely perplexed and unsure of who she is married to, decides to go with her gut instinct and appoints herself her husband’s attorney along with the green novice (Adam Scott) they’ve already given him. To make sure she fully can comprehend military law, she enlists the help of a wild-card, washed up ex-alcoholic lawyer (Morgan Freeman, Judd’s costar from the 1997 thriller Kiss The Girls). Despite the annoying setbacks (the lame subplot involving Amanda Peet as Judd’s irresponsible younger sister, not to mention cloying scenes like Caviezel insisting he and his wife get it on in the lie-detector test room because *wink wink* no one’s looking), the majority of the film’s running plot is actually quite involving: twists and turns and clever complications keep you riveted to the screen in desperation to find out how Judd will get herself and her family out of this mess. The film benefits from genuine chemistry between the lady heroine and Freeman, their characters written a slight cut above the usual Determined with a capital D freedom fighters you get in these kinds of films, and director Carl Franklin’s imaginative camera angles are obviously interested in making something more than just the average Hollywood thriller. Unfortunately the film eventually takes an obvious turn in its third act that reveals the film’s climactic finale before it even happens, and you’re left with an empty feeling like you’ve seen it all before. Or perhaps you had that feeling earlier when Judd got into the ‘you’re in over your head’ phase of the investigation where mysterious cars with tinted windows start driving really close to hers.
Directed by Carl Franklin
Cinematography by Theo van de Sande
Music by Graeme Revell
Production Design by Paul Peters
Costume Design by Sharen Davis
Film Editing by Carole Kravetz Aykanian