Newlywed lawyer Claire Kubik (Ashley Judd) is hoping to get pregnant, but when her husband (Jim Caviezel) is arrested for the murder of civilians in El Salvador 15 years earlier, she thinks it’s a case of mistaken identity. When he reveals his real name and admits to having been a clandestine operative – albeit innocent of the charges - Claire gets to work defending him. Up against a court martial, she enlists the aid of renegade ex-military lawyer Charlie Grimes (Morgan Freeman), but she can’t imagine all the kinds of trouble she is getting into.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Part military courtroom drama, part psychological thriller, High Crimes has the unusual element of a female protagonist – and almost an action hero. But Ashley Judd is no Sigourney Weaver, and her own style is well suited to this sort of role; she is totally credible as the feminine woman with steel in her backbone. Pity though that the talented Jim Caviezel is mismatched with her; that’s one of film’s flaws. Morgan Freeman provides predictable but still effective support as the quirky character of the piece, and Tom Bower makes a nicely nerdy greenhorn lawyer with redeeming features. Amanda Peet relishes her role as the free spirited sister to Judd’s more conservative sibling, and even steals a couple of scenes. The direction and dialogue are tops in a genre film Hollywood has perfected to such an extent that it would take almost wilful destruction by a director to derail it. The strength of the story keeps it on track, too, as does fine cinematography and seamless production design. It grips and gyrates well, delivering the climactic reveal with flair.
Review by Louise Keller:
A polished, classy psychological thriller, High Crimes zeros in on your emotions from the start. Filled with smarts, scares and twists and turns, what makes this well-made film so enjoyable, are its characters. A smart sassy lawyer, a gauche novice attorney, a wild card former alcoholic ex-military attorney whose associate is a canine called Delilah and the odd-ball sister who thinks she is psychic. An interesting bunch – and they’re the good guys, who are defending handsome husband with a past. Ashley Judd just seems to get better and better – she is a totally credible combination of pert, pretty, vulnerable and tough. She may be petite and feminine, but we have no doubts as to the kind of punch she has – whether it is from a highly sculptured eyebrow or an intelligent tirade of word-fare. We are engaged as the seeds of doubt start to grow and Claire sees her structured life falling apart. It’s been five years since Judd teamed with Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls, and this is a far more satisfying encounter. Freeman is like a woolly sheepdog who has just woken up; he is ultra relaxed, but delivers as simply and unexpectedly as he produces a jacket from his backpack. He delivers one of the film’s best lines, when caught out after an encounter with a scotch bottle to procure evidence – “I am the victim of hazardous working conditions,” he complains. Adam Scott and Amanda Peet make the most of their quirky characters, who never stop stealing scenes and pulling out surprises. Some of the military cover-up may not stand up to too much scrutiny, but we are having such a great time, it doesn’t seem to matter. Moody, tense and at times terrifying, High Crimes is top, high-class action.
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HIGH CRIMES (MA)
CAST: Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, Jim Caviezel, Amanda Peet, Tom Bower
PRODUCER: Arnon Milchan, Janet Yang, Jesse B’Franklin
DIRECTOR: Carl Franklin
SCRIPT: Yuri Zeltser & Cary Bickley (novel by Joseph Finder)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Theo van de Sande ASC
EDITOR: Carole Kravetz-Aykanian
MUSIC: Graeme Revell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Paul Peters
RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 9, 2002
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: November 13, 2002