A Lawyer On The Run.
Some directors are aware of the potency of music in films - not just the meandering, indiscriminate music running in and out of those 1940s thrillers - but definite, mind-enhancing music that adds another dimension to the screen. Sydney Pollack is one of those directors. The opening scenes of The Firm are energetic and exciting, due to the jazz playing pianist, Dave Grusin, telling us that life is about to explode into better things - for us? No, for Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise), law student and star pupil. He is wooed into a firm of Memphis lawyers, an envelope pushed towards him with the amount he will earn - 20% higher than any offers so far, a rented Mercedes, a furnished house and a 5% rise promised in the second year. His wife Abby (the charismatic Jeanne Tripplehorn) is bemused but goes along with it, moving to a new house in a new city and continuing her work as a teacher.
Gradually Mitch is aware that all is not as it seems. He is given a 'mentor', Avery Tolar (Gene Hackman) who takes him to the Cayman Islands on business where he has a liaison on the beach with an unknown girl. Now Mitch is no longer the pure white husband; he has a secret from Abby, and secrets breed vulnerability. It seems the firm now owns him and there is indication that to get out is impossible.
There are so many excellent performances in this film. Apart from a faultless Tom Cruise, there are strong performances from Hackman, from Hal Holbrook as the greasy Oliver Lambert, from Ed Harris as the FBI agent, Wayne Tarrance and from Holly Hunter as Tammy Hemphill, and it's impossible to forget Gary Busey as Eddie Lomax. (This actor is often underrated in films, but always gives good copy). The direction is strong and forceful - there isn't a dull minute - and nothing prepares you for those scenes where Mitch is on the run from those who are ruthless and determined; it's finger-crunching time. And the best part is that this film is ageless: as fresh and dynamic now as any film of the 21st century. (Watch out for a brilliant scene towards the end with an uncredited Paul Sorvino as head of the Mob).