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The Pelican Brief

John Grisham, Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington, how can you miss?

1993's film version of Grisham's novel is written and directed by Alan J. Paluka (All the President's Men, Klute) and he brings the book to life in a way few Grisham adaptions have before or since.

Julia Roberts is Darby Shaw, a young law student who stumbles onto a legal brief with some very dangerous content tied to the recent deaths of two Supreme Court judges.

She shows it to one of her professors Thomas Callahan, who also happens to be her lover. Callahan (the always great Sam Shepard) is almost immediately killed with a car bomb, sending Darby on the run with no one to trust.

Gray Grantham (Denzel Washington) is an up and coming investigative journalist who crosses paths with Darby. It doesn't take long until they are both on the run for justice with a conspiracy that seems to stretch VERY far up the political ladder.

Adding to our enjoyment, many of those players are played by reliably smarmy actors including Tony Goldwyn (Ghost) as an advisor to the President, John Heard (Home Alone) as a senior FBI advisor, James Sikking (Outland) as the FBI Director and nervous WIlliam Atherton (The Hindenburg).

Robert Culp (I Spy) rounds things out as The President and Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games) is an assassin. GREAT cast.

Filmed in sequence, Pakula ratchets up the pressure and serves up a smart mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Roberts and Washington are very young, and already very good.

Released the same year as the other standout Grisham film adaption, "The Firm" with Tom Cruise, 1993 was a strong year for Grisham at the movies.

THE PELICAN BRIEF is a blast, serving up a great legal theory with style, suspense and an incredible cast. (I didn't even mention John Lithgow and Hume Cronyn above...)

It remains enjoyable 26 years after its release and gets an A.

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