Judd Soldiers On
"High Crimes" is a movie with a problem and one not of its own doing. That problem is that it is a military thriller with a mix of courtroom and cover up drama which immediately makes you compare it to "A Few Good Men". It is the same problem which has affected other military thrillers such as "The General's Daughter" because they all seem so average when compared to "A Few Good Men". And it is a shame because "High Crimes" is not a bad military thriller in fact it has a few nice twists as well as the benefit of a good cast including Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman. But it ends up feeling so ordinary andin need of the power performance, energy and excitement which "A Few Good Men" delivered in bucket loads.
Life couldn't get much better for Claire Kubik (Ashley Judd - Double Jeopardy), she is happily married to Tom (Jim Caviezel), they are trying for a baby and she is doing so well as a defence lawyer that a partnership is on the cards. But that all gets blown away when Tom is arrested in a military operation and she discovers the man she married is in fact Sgt. Ron Chapman a marine who has been on the run after being charged with the murder of 9 civilians in Las Colinas, El Salvador. Believing her husband to be innocent despite him hiding who he really is Claire with the help of former military lawyer Charles W. Grimes (Morgan Freeman - Along Came a Spider) try to prove him innocent as he faces a military trial.
In a way "High Crimes" is a bit of a military thriller cliche because remove most of the dressing and what we have is a lawyer trying to prove a man is innocent and having to battle the closed doors of the military judicial system where threatening behaviour is part of the course. It's a cliche which as already pointed out has been done before and so there is a certain amount of familiarity to the story with elements such as Claire being threatened and her associate Charles being attacked. It is the same with all the cover up she faces and closed doors as Claire tries to get evidence, it is all pretty typical and so when we get to an hour in to "High Crimes" and they get a testimony which will clear her husband's name you know it will be thrown out of court.
But for all the text book elements and scenes "High Crimes" is nicely dressed no more so than the initial set up where we have the happily married Claire, on course for a partnership, trying for a baby only to then discover the man she married Tom Kubik is in fact a wanted man by the name of Ron Chapman, a marine charged with mass murder. It is a semi clever lead in and a few twists along the way from the volatile Hernandez through to the lurking Salvadoran Man helpting to make it a little interesting. Although I have to say that the subplot surrounding a romance between Claire's sister and the official defence lawyer, Lieutenant Embry, is a bit of waste, only made entertaining by the fact the wet behind the ears lawyer is mockingly called Embryo..
So basically "High Crimes" is despite some nice dressing and a couple of twists a rather ordinary military thriller and what it screams out for is power. The power it needs comes from stronger characters but more importantly more powerful courtroom scenes. You expect anything which takes place in a courtroom to have some sort of spark as lawyers try to out do each other, destroying credibility and evidence but it never comes to life. In fact the courtroom scenes in "High Crimes" are some of the most disappointing and not only feel flat bt leave you feeling deflated.
In many ways the saving grace, the thing which keeps "High Crimes" watchable when you've sussed that the drama won't be too thrilling are the performances especially those from Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman. The irony of this is that their characters, Claire Kubik and Charles W. Grimes, are not exactly that great, in fact there are times when they seem a little flat but because Judd and Freeman deliver character and definitely deliver likeable people you warm to them. Good thing to because unfortunately Amanda Peet and Adam Scott often over act, almost trying to deliver some sort of humour which feels out of place in their supporting roles. And then there is Jim Caviezel as Tom Kubik and I suppose you could say it is a good performance because Caviezel gets across an element of Tom being a man who functions via routine and orders, almost a man without opinion but it does make him a very flat character.
What this all boils down to is that "High Crimes" is an okay military thriller which covers the familiar ground of proving a man innocent in amongst military cover ups and secrets. But behind some nice dressing it is for the most routine and lacks the power and excitement of a certain other military/ courtroom thriller which all other similar movies are judged by.