Rules of Engagement

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A potboiler in the vein of Courage Under Fire, Friedkin's movie convinces while staging visceral action in the combat zone, but quickly loses momentum in the courtroom scenes that follow. The script's view of military ethics echoes Jack Nicholson's famous speech in A Few Good Men ('You can't handle the truth!'), the implication being that decisions made in the heat of battle are beyond the ken of mere civilians. Indeed, their actions, under fire are above and beyond the petty expediencies of everyday morality and international politics. The evacuation of the ambassador from the US embassy in riot-torn Yemen ends in a massacre of men, women and children by Col Childers (Jackson) and his team of crack Marines. Jobbing lawyer Col Hodges (Jones) reluctantly agrees to defend the man who saved his life in Vietnam 28 years before. The proceedings are diplomatic window dressing, however, since a video containing key evidence has been destroyed by a two-dimensional black hat (Greenwood). Once any ambiguity has been erased, the verbose arguments of Hodges and the prosecuting lawyer (Pearce) become little more than windy generic wordplay.

Release details

Duration: 127 mins

Cast and crew

Director: William Friedkin
Screenwriter: Stephen Gaghan
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones
Samuel L Jackson
Guy Pearce
Bruce Greenwood
Blair Underwood
Philip Baker Hall
Anne Archer
Mark Fuerstein
Ben Kingsley
Gordon Clapp
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