A Few Good Men is a 1992 American legal drama film based on Aaron Sorkin’s 1989 play of the same name.
The film revolves around the court-martial of two U.S. Marines charged with the murder of a fellow Marine and the tribulations of their lawyers as they prepare a case to defend their clients.
U.S. Marines Lance Corporal Harold Dawson (Wolfgang Bodison) and Private First Class Louden Downey (James Marshall) are facing a general court-martial, accused of murdering fellow Marine William Santiago at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Santiago had poor relations with his fellow Marines, compared unfavorably to them, and broke the chain of command in an attempt to get transferred out of Guantanamo. Base Commander Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) and his officers argue about the best course of action: while Jessup’s executive officer, Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Markinson (J. T. Walsh), advocates that Santiago be transferred, Jessup dismisses the option and instead orders Santiago’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Jonathan James Kendrick (Kiefer Sutherland), to “train” Santiago to become a better Marine.
While it is believed that the motive in Santiago’s murder was retribution for naming Dawson in a fenceline shooting, Naval investigator and lawyer Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore) largely suspects Dawson and Downey carried out a “code red” order: a violent extrajudicial punishment. Galloway wants to defend the two, but the case is given to Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) – an inexperienced and unenthusiastic lawyer with a penchant for plea bargains. Galloway and Kaffee instantly conflict, with Galloway unsettled by Kaffee’s apparent laziness whilst Kaffee resents Galloway’s interference. Kaffee and Galloway travel to Guantanamo base Cuba to question Colonel Jessup and others. Under questioning, Jessup claims Santiago was set to be transferred the next day.