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The Pelican Brief (1993)

PG-13 | | Crime, Drama, Mystery | 17 December 1993 (USA)
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A law student uncovers a conspiracy, putting herself and others in danger.

Director:

Alan J. Pakula

Writers:

John Grisham (book), Alan J. Pakula (screenplay)
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4,034 ( 2,076)
1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Julia Roberts ... Darby Shaw
Denzel Washington ... Gray Grantham
Sam Shepard ... Thomas Callahan
John Heard ... Gavin Vereek
Tony Goldwyn ... Fletcher Coal
James Sikking ... FBI Director Denton Voyles (as James B. Sikking)
William Atherton ... Bob Gminski
Robert Culp ... President
Stanley Tucci ... Khamel
Hume Cronyn ... Justice Rosenberg
John Lithgow ... Smith Keen
Anthony Heald ... Marty Velmano
Nicholas Woodeson ... Stump
Stanley Anderson ... Edwin Sneller
John Finn ... Matthew Barr
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Storyline

Two Supreme Court Justices have been killed. Now a college professor, who clerked for one of the two men and who is also having an affair with one of his students, is given a brief by her that states who probably wanted to see these two men dead. He then gives it to one of his friends, who works for the FBI. When the FBI director reads it, he is fascinated by it. One of the president's men who read it is afraid that if it ever got out, the president could be smeared. So he advises the president to tell the director to drop it, which he does. But later the professor and the girl were out and he was drunk and when he refused to give her the keys, she stepped out of the car. When he started it, it blew up. She then discovers that her place has been burglarized and what was taken were her computer and her disks. Obviously, her brief has someone agitated. She then turns to her boyfriend's friend at the FBI. He agrees to come meet her but before he does, someone shoots him and takes his ... Written by rcs0411@yahoo.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Two Supreme Court Justices have been assassinated. One lone law student has stumbled upon the truth. An investigative journalist wants her story. Everybody else wants her dead. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for momentary language and some violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

17 December 1993 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Pelican Brief See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$45,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$16,864,404, 19 December 1993

Gross USA:

$100,768,056

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$195,268,056
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The characters that Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington play in the film become lovers in Grisham's novel. Although Roberts was interested in bringing that romance to the screen, Washington disagreed, and felt that target audiences did not want to see an interracial romance. Thus, the romance never takes place in the film. See more »

Goofs

When Darby and Gray are being chased through the parking garage, the manilla envelope and papers in her hand change position repeatedly between shots. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Justice Rosenberg: Any of those signs got my name on 'em?
Gray Grantham: Quite a few.
Justice Rosenberg: What do they say?
Gray Grantham: The usual: Death to Rosenberg, Retire Rosenberg, Cut off the oxygen.
Justice Rosenberg: [laughs] That's my favorite. Of course you, Mr Grantham, did pretty good by me your last time out: Rosenberg equals the government over business, the individual over government, the environment over everything. And the Indians? Oh, give 'em whatever they want.
Gray Grantham: Well with all due respects sir, that wasn't my line, that was a quote.
Justice Rosenberg: From one of your...
See more »

Connections

Featured in The Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Episode #22.20 (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

Clarinet Marmalade
Written by Larry Shields (as L. Shields) and Henry Ragas (as H. W. Ragas)
Performed by Rene Netto & The Sounds of New Orleans
Courtesy of H.E.R. Records
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Lifeless legal political thriller only for die hard fans of Julia Roberts...
28 March 2018 | by DeuceWild_77See all my reviews

Let me start to say that i never read the John Grisham's book this movie is based on, so i'm judging only the motion picture.

When "The Pelican Brief" came out in '93 it was a major box office hit everywhere, partly due to the casting of Julia Roberts as Darby Shaw (still riding on the "Pretty Woman" success which made her being cast in almost every greenlighted project around that time, from the average potboiler, "Sleeping with the Enemy" to the trite / corny, "Dying Young" and Spielberg's misstep, "Hook", all undeserved blockbusters...) and for being the second Grisham's work adapted to the big screen, after the vastly superior "The Firm" directed by Sidney Pollack and starring Tom Cruise, which opened earlier in that year with good reviews and millions earned at the box office.

The veteran Alan J. Pakula was a great director during the 70's, his political thrillers such as "The Parallax View" ('74) and "All the President's Men" ('76) or the crime / thriller "Klute" ('71) are among the best made in that decade, but in the 80's besides "Sophie's Choice" ('82) his career kind of tanked, only saved by the critical and box office success of "Presumed Innocent" ('90), starring Harrison Ford, that made Pakula a relevant name again and based on his skill directing those political thriller films, Warner Bros. offered him the chance to helm "The Pelican Brief", which he also produce and provided the screenplay.

The story itself, even if it was standard, became confusing since the start due to badly edited sequences and the lack of information that was given to the viewer about what is happening on screen and who are those people involved in that situations, with Pakula assuming that every moviegoer read the book. Scenes were randomly happening, characters appear and disappear without proper development or explanation and the way Darby uncovers the truth, surpassing the F.B.I., it's too far-fetched.

It didn't help that the pace is sluggish and the movie didn't involve, amaze or even dare, it's in fact dull and boring mostly of its length and feels like Pakula condensed half the book in some key scenes to get the storyline moving and the rest was just for showing the imposed by the Studio, Julia Roberts in every scene and camera angle possible and imaginary (and always with the same irritating expression).

A bored looking Denzel was cast in a role that asked for a rich white man, playing here second fiddle to a troubled protagonist (like he did in "Philadelphia" the very same year, but he was much better in that) and refused the interracial love affair with Roberts like the characters in the book, which was a good decision not because of the skin color, but for the lack of on-screen chemistry between the two.

The brilliant supporting cast are wasted here: the late great Sam Shepard was given almost nothing to do; John Heard & Stanley Tucci failed to leave an impression; Robert Culp played his part too goofy to be the President of United States and only Tony Goldwin (still in "Ghost" mode) showed some signs of being awake.

In short, "The Pelican Brief" is a lifeless film directed by an once big name director, far away from his glory days, that feels more like a Julia Roberts' vehicle than an exciting political thriller. It may be one of the worst Grisham's adaptations to the big screen, if you like the genre you rather watch "The Firm", "The Client" ('94) or even "A Time to Kill" ('96), because this one is a near waste of time...


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