Film Review: "High Crimes" (2002)

Posted by prla1983 on January 10, 2005 • 0 commentsEmail This Post

Last night I got around to see "High Crimes" on DVD, a 2002 movie featuring the beautiful Ashley Judd (Heat) and the brilliant Morgan Freeman (Shawshank Redemption, Se7en). With these two on the lead roles you can't really lose, can you? Well, no, not really.

Claire Kubik (Judd) is a hot shot lawyer working for a well known firm who happens to manage important and mediatic cases. She's very self-confident, sophisticated and fresh and knows very well what she wants and likes. And she likes living with her husband, Tom (James Caviezel), on the country side. However, this idyllic scenario soons turns into despair when she learns that Tom isn't quite who she had always known and is in fact a military dissident accused of a capital crime who turns out to be known as Ron Chapman. It all goes back to a few years earlier, when Tom/Ron took part on a covert special operation that ended on him allegedly shooting nine innocent people at point blank range. Claire believes her husband is innocent and decides to help him in military court. Aware that she really isn't familiar with the ground she'll be stepping on, she asks for the help and assistance of a former military lawyer, Charlie Grimes (Freeman), whose biggest struggle by then is to avoid alcohol like he's been proudly doing for over 400 days successfully. Grimes is a relaxed, easy-going type guy who likes to be a "wild card". He doesn't play by the rules and that usually works for him. Together, Claire and Grimes work alongside a newbie military lawyer (Adam Scott), only to find the spider web they have to entangle is bigger than they imagined at first.

I don't want to go along with the rest of the plot as it's not really necessary. "High Crimes" is a typical courtroom thriller that's been done over and over again and it's quite predictable even if you haven't seen many of these genre films. However, the fact that it doesn't promise too much also means that it doesn't have too much trouble delivering well enough. Especially interesting, in my opinion, is the way we get to see the different versions of what supposedly happened during the blood stained operation in South America. Director Carl Franklin shows us the same characters, in the same exact situation, doing the exact same things, except the roles are exchanged. This has been used to the same effect in 2003's Basic and most likely comes from earlier on. Either way, it's probably the best way to keep us on our toes and give the audience a graphic taste of both sides in question, like we are jurors in this case.

The acting is very good, and I can honestly say I was quite stunned by Ashley Judd as she looks beautiful on screen. Her freshness and confidence impressed me in a way I haven't felt like in a good while and that was a good surprise. Morgan Freeman doesn't surprise me at all, he just keeps adding insult to injury with yet another brilliant performance showing he's not only classy, he's also extremely versatile. James Caviezel delivers a strong performance aswell although there's not much room for him to shine, at least not as much as it does for Judd or Freeman. However, within the confines of his role in this story, he does what he needs to do: be convincing. The supporting roles are convincing aswell - Juan Carlos Hernández is particularly scary in the role of Major James Hernandez - and of particular interest to me is the appearance of Jude Ciccollela as the judge, who you might know as the Mike Novick of acclaimed TV series 24.

The story itself unfolds in a very fluid manner, Freeman adds the touch of class - and in this case of smart comedy too - and despite the somewhat weak and predictable plot and mandatory final twist, the film is still satisfying and entertaining.

*** out of 4

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