The Pelican Brief

As a writer-director with a well-honed sense of paranoia a la Fritz Lang, Alan J. Pakula (Klute, The Parallax View, All the President’s Men, Presumed Innocent) does a good job of adapting and directing this John Grisham thriller about a New Orleans law student (Julia Roberts) fleeing for her life, with a Washington reporter (Denzel Washington) as her only ally, after her speculative legal brief about the murder of two Supreme Court justices leads to another murderof her lover and law professor (Sam Shepard). It’s too bad that Pakula allows this 1993 movie to dawdle after its climax, but prior to that he’s adept at suggesting unseen menace and keeping things in motion. With John Heard, Tony Goldwyn, James B. Sikking, William Atherton, Robert Culp, Stanley Tucci, and, in cameos, Hume Cronyn and John Lithgow. (JR)

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