The Firm

The Firm (1993)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Jeanne Tripplehorn
Extras: Theatrical Trailers

The first time I watched "The Firm" years ago, I was mesmerized by its almost hypnotic feel that weaves its way through the films latter third. A real-life thriller adapted from the novel by John Grisham, the film is not only one of those films that keep you on the edge of your seat for their entire running length, it is also one of those films that features images that burn themselves indelibly into the viewer’s mind. I, for example, can’t think of the film without seeing Tom Cruise running from the hitman in the monorail station before my mind’s eye. It goes without saying that I was eagerly looking forward to Paramount Home Video’s release of this film on DVD and I decided to give it a thorough check-up for you.

Tom Cruise stars in "The Firm" as Mitch McDeere, a brilliant Harvard Law graduate who is driven by his wish to leave his working class past behind. An ambitious job offer from a reputable, Memphis based law firm puts this dream within reach and soon Mitch and his wife Abby (Jeanne Tripplehorn) are on the movie to their new home in Memphis. There, they find all the splendor they ever wished for. A nice house, paid for by the firm. A brand new Mercedes convertible, paid for by the firm. An upper class lifestyle, paid for by the firm. Other amenities, all paid for by the firm. If all this seems to be good to be true, let me assure you that indeed, it is.

Shortly into his work, Mitch realizes that the firm is actually a money-laundering institution for the Mafia. An FBI agent confronts him with the information, hoping he would be able to "buy" Mitch into releasing confidential information that would help the FBI to uncover the scheme. Mitch is determined not to sell out to anyone, not the FBI or the Mob and tries to find a way to uncover the firm in a way that would not threaten his integrity or his future. He tries to get his life back!

"The Firm" is stylishly directed by Sydney Pollack, a man who is no stranger to the thriller genre, but is also similarly at home with epic dramas. This pays off nicely in "The Firm," as the film always has a very humanistic element besides the obvious mystery that serves to build suspense. The characters are well developed and have edges, just like real people while the visual atmosphere of the film is highly stylized with harsh contrasts and deep blacks.

A great cast makes "The Firm" work its magic. Tom Cruise is playing Mitch McDeere with an agitation that is virtually palpable and puts a lot of energy into the movie as the racy plot unfolds. Loving husband, career oriented lawyer, and chased animal are three extremes to portray in a single movie, yet Cruise nicely manages to pull it off without ever giving us the feeling we are watching an actor at work. Cruise becomes Mitch McDeere.
The same is true for Gene Hackman in his part as Avery Tolar. The veteran actor pulls off his part effortlessly, showing us a smooth lawyer who knows the limits of the game and accepts them. Holly Hunter puts in a memorable performance as the screechy Tammy Hemphill, who helps save Mitch’s hide, and Ed Harris, Jeanne Tripplehorn and other members of the cast always help to maintain credibility of the story, keeping it believable at any time.

Paramount Home Video is presenting "The Firm" on this DVD in a great-looking <$PS,widescreen> transfer that is <$16x9,16x9 enhanced>. Restoring the movie’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the transfer is clean and highly detailed. Without visible noise or grain, the DVD creates a pleasing image that is nicely delineated and absolutely solid. With a good black level, the shadows in the presentation are deep and solid but never lose their definition. Highlights are strong and well-balanced, giving the transfer a very natural look. Color delineation is perfect, without bleeding or noise, faithfully reproducing all the subtle hues and tinges in the image. Fleshtones are absolutely natural looking and the sometimes delicate lighting set-ups of the film are faithfully reproduced, making this a great looking DVD. The compression is also without flaws and leaves even the most intricate details in the transfer fully intact, without signs of <$pixelation,pixelation> or other compression artifacts.

Supplied with an English <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> audio track, as well as English and French <$DS,Dolby surround> tracks, the DVD creates a beautiful sonic bed for the movie. The surround usage is restrained but nonetheless effective. Only in a handful of scenes will you noticeably hear discrete surround effects, but for the most part, the surround channels are utilized to create a natural sounding, breathing ambiance for this taut thriller. Soft phone ringing from the back or the noise of a copier bleeding in from the distant left rear, these are the elements that make "The Firm" a very natural audio track that integrates these elements so seemingly easily that you simply take them for granted. The track has a good frequency response with good, unexaggerated basses and a clear high end. The audio is without distortion of any sorts and dialogues are well integrated in the mix, always clearly understandable.
"The Firm" features a striking musical score. Composed by Dave Grusin, this is one of those scores that you immediately recognize. With its bluesy and jazzy piano themes, the track is very different from the standard fare found in thrillers and it is what makes it stand out so well. Perfectly underscoring the film from its most romantic to its most agitated moments, Grusin’s score is an imaginative piece of work that is never distracting and fully complements the film.

"The Firm" is a taut thriller that plays greatly due to the impressive visual presentation, its dramatic flow and the music that builds the atmosphere. It is one of the best Grisham adaptations, next to "A Time To Kill" and features an incredibly exciting and twisted storyline. The DVD presentation we get to see from Paramount Home Video here is beautifully done, ensuring the best possible quality for the film. While some added features would have been a nice addition to this high caliber release, it is nonetheless a DVD that leaves a great impression. Next time you think about hiring a lawyer, watch "The Firm" first!