(director: William Friedkin; screenwriters: Stephen Gaghan/story by James Webb; cinematographers: Nicola Pecorini/William Fraker; editor: Augie Hess; music: Mark Isham; cast: Tommy Lee Jones (Col. Hays Hodges), Samuel L. Jackson (Col. Terry Childers), Guy Pearce (Maj. Mark Biggs), Bruce Greenwood (William Sokal), Blair Underwood (Captain Lee), Philip Baker Hall (Gen. H. Lawrence Hodges), Anne Archer (Mrs. Mourain), Ben Kingsley (Ambassador Mourain); Runtime: 127; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Richard D. Zanuck/Scott Rudin; Paramount; 2000)

The drama effectively combines combat and potboiler courtroom drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An exciting military thriller straightly directed by William Friedkin(“Good Times”/”Bug”/”Killer Joe”). The drama effectively combines combat and potboiler courtroom drama. The screenplay is by TV writer Stephen Gaghan. It’s based on a story by the former infantry commander James Webb, who would later become a senator. Its familiar theme is to honor the military view vs. the hostile view of some civilians held since the unpopular Vietnam War.

The story revolves around Col. Terry Childers (Samuel L. Jackson), who while serving in Vietnam valiantly saved the life of Col. Hays Hodges (Tommy Lee Jones). We move ahead 28 years later and Childer’s charged with the murder of 83 civilian Arab demonstrators outside the US Embassy in Yemen. Childers was ordered there to help evacuate Americans from a hostile mob. The tragedy resulted in a volatile international incident.

Though Hodges is certain there are better lawyers, but he can’t refuse this case and comes out of retirement determined to give it his best shot.

The plot turns when the dastardly political National Security Advisor William Sokal (Bruce Greenwood) tampers with the evidence to make Childers the fall guy and thereby removing any blame on the US Government itself.

Guy Pearce is the tough prosecutor.

The nuts-and-bolts story is engaging enough, even if everything is too measured and too over melodramatic for my taste.