Home Movies by Decade Movies - 1990s Pelican Brief, The (1994)

Pelican Brief, The (1994)

When this was made, John Grisham’s stock in Hollywood was so high that one of his shopping lists could probably have spawned a blockbuster movie.

If it had done, it would undoubtedly have followed the formula consolidated by this, the second of the big-screen Grisham dramatisations: dense plotting, lots of legalese, two charismatic leads and a cavalcade of stars in small roles.


Here, Julia Roberts plays aspiring young legal eagle Darby Shaw, who stumbles across a massive conspiracy that reaches right to the Oval Office; her only ally is Denzel Washington’s sceptical reporter Gray Grantham (pictured at right), who finds himself investigating the scoop of a lifetime.

The two leads are fine, but the real coup is the depth of talent in the supporting cast – Sam Shepard and John Heard are among those delivering killer cameos, but everyone is eclipsed by Robert Culp’s witty portrayal of a shifty president.

The plot combines legal thriller with conspiracy movie, so it’s no surprise that the film’s director is Alan J Pakula – whose previous work includes Presumed Innocent and The Parallax View – who weaves his way adeptly through the myriad characters and subplots.

Darby Shaw
Julia Roberts
Gray Grantham
Denzel Washington
Thomas Callahan
Sam Shepard
Gavin Verheek
John Heard
Fletcher Coal
Tony Goldwyn
Denton Voyles
James B Sikking
Bob Gminski
William Atherton
Robert Culp
Stanley Tucci
Justice Rosenberg
Hume Cronyn
Smith Keen
John Lithgow
Marty Velmano
Anthony Heald
Nicholas Woodeson
Edwin Sneller
Stanley Anderson
Matthew Barr
John Finn
Alice Stark
Cynthia Nixon
Charles Morgan/Garcia
Jake Weber
Eric East
Casey Biggs
Christopher Murray
Sonny Jim Gaines

Alan J Pakula