The Pelican Brief (1993)
Embroiled in an affair with Thomas Callahan (Sam Shephard), her alcoholic professor, precocious 24-year-old Tulane University law student Darby Shaw (Julia Roberts) writes up an insightful theory about the recent murder of two Supreme Court justices, one of whom, Abraham Rosenberg (Hume Cronyn), served as Callahan's mentor. When Callahan shares this so-called "Pelican Brief" with buddy Gavin Verheek (John Heard), an FBI lawyer, the document makes its way to White House flack Fletcher Coal (Tony Goldwyn), who believes it could topple the current administration. When Callahan is murdered and the President (Robert Culp) convinces the FBI to hold off on investigating Darby's theory, the resourceful student must go into hiding, stalked by relentless assassin Khamel (Stanley Tucci). Her only hope of escaping Callahan's fate and proving her theory lies in Washington investigative reporter Gray Grantham (Denzel Washington), who's already had one confidential source back out of sharing information about the assassinations. This John Grisham adaptation is generally faithful to the best-selling novel. Fans of HBO's Sex and the City will notice one of its future stars, Cynthia Nixon, in a small role as one of Darby's New Orleans classmates. ~ Brian J. Dillard, Rovi … More
as Darby Shaw
as Gray Grantham
as Thomas Callahan
as Gavin Verheek
as Fletcher Coal
as Denton Voyles
as Bob Gminski
as The President
as Justice Rosenberg
as Smith Keen
as Marty Velmano
as Edwin Sneller
as Matthew Barr
as Alice Stark
as Charles Morgan/Garci...
as Eric East
as KO Lewis
as Song & Dance Man fro...
as Managing Editor
as Sara Ann Morgan
as Rosenberg's Nurse
as Edward Linney
as Justice Jensen
as Parklane Security Of...
as Rosenberg's Nurse
as Sara Ann Morgan's Fa...
as New Orleans Policewo...
as W & B Security Guard
No Friends? Inconceivable! Log in to see what your friends have to say.Login
Critic Reviews for The Pelican Brief
A routine thriller, curiosuly disappointing from Alan Pakula that even stars like Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts can't rescue
If I would still call it one of Pakula's very best films since the end of the 1970s, that says far more about the decline of his career than anything else.
It's too bad that Pakula allows this 1993 movie to dawdle after its climax, but prior to that he's adept at suggesting unseen menace and keeping things in motion.
You'd think that Pakula would be just the man to tease the intellectual and emotional depth out of a Grisham potboiler, but you'd be wrong. [Blu-ray]
Pakula has improved on Grisham's book by excising much of the detritus, crafting a taut, intelligent thriller that succeeds on almost every level.
A curiously disappointing thriller from Alan Pakula, reaffirming the notion that John Gresham's best-selling novels are more fun to read (at the airport) than watch on the big screen, even if they star Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts.
Definitely an easy rental and a good way to drown a couple of hours if you're looking for a little suspense, some law stuff, lotsa secondary players and a couple of renowned leads delivering the goods.
An old hand at this sort of thing, Pakula goes through the motions, but not much more.
Julia good Denzel better.
Good, albeit overlong Grisham thriller
As the film piles on shovelfuls of further exposition, Mr. Washington and Ms. Roberts are left to look terrific and recite perfunctory lines.
Bland, bloodless thriller.
Utterly confusing John Grisham story, with Roberts and Washington in full strereotype mode.
Middling thriller. Drags to say the least.
Audience Reviews for The Pelican Brief
Not all that enthralling. Probably only of interest to Julia Roberts fans. Over long and hard to follow (or maybe just my attention kept drifting off). Wanted to like it, but just a bit dull.More
Made somewhere around the start of the mid-90's legal thriller craze (and most of those films were from John Grisham novels) The Pelican Brief is a film about a young law student's theory about the assassinations of two Supreme Court justices...and it just happens to actually be true. The paper reaches the president through a chain starting with her law professor - who she's also sleeping with - and uncovers a conspiracy involving the chief executive. Thus, the government does anything and everything to kill her, including murdering everyone she comes in contact with. Also coming into play in this is Denzel Washington, a Washington newspaper reporter who agrees to meet with her and becomes involved, no doubt because of the incredible attention and readership it would bring to him. The acting is superb, shifting from drama to action film almost effortlessly. I don't normally go for legal thrillers all that much, but this one is an exception to the rule.More
A very good political conspiracy thriller with an outstanding cast. Based on the John Grisham novel. This is a entertaining film with a deep plot, it can be a little slow at times and light on action but overall an enjoyable well made film.More
Based on John Grisham's best-selling novel.
Darby Shaw (Julia Roberts) is a law student at Tulane who writes her own theory about who arranged for the assassination of two Supreme Court justices and why. The unfortunate thing is, her theory is right on the money, and once it starts circulating it results in a number of deaths. Investigative reporter Gray Grantham (Denzel Washington) turns out to be the one person she can trust and rely on.
"The Pelican Brief" is a solid and entertaining (if lengthy) political / newspaper / legal thriller from the director of "All The President's Men". It keeps its grip thanks to genuinely good film-making and an excellent cast. The climax is reasonably suspenseful.
To screenwriter / director Alan J. Pakula's credit, the villain of the movie - a stereotypically greedy and maniacal tycoon - is deliberately made mysterious and gets no actual screen time - except for an appearance in a key photograph.
I've seen a couple of the big-screen Grisham adaptations, and they have all been pretty good. His novels do make for good movie material. I can't decide which one is the best, though...that's kind of tough. Hmmm I tooke ?A time to kill? and ?The Pelican brief?
The Pelican Brief Quotes
Discuss The Pelican Brief on our Movie forum!