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The Pelican Brief, Movie Review Example

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Movie Review

Introduction

The film “The Pelican Brief,” based on a novel by John Grisham, is a legal thriller with many areas of focus on business and legal communication through the portrayal of its many characters. The film’s stars, which include Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington, tell the story of a law student’s brief regarding the murder of two Supreme Court Justices and how led to changes in the lives of the student, her professor/lover, and those within their circle while the truth was discovered, including attempted murder and escape. The film represents a unique form of communication between these characters and their fight to protect themselves and to uncover the truth. From a communication-based perspective, the film offers a unique approach to these principles and demonstrates the power of some individuals over others when secrets exist and how to take control of these situations as needed to prove the truth, to reveal any obstacles that exist, and to become powerful and authoritative in one’s own right.

Body

The film portrays Julia Roberts as Darby Shaw, a law student with a different read on the assassination of two Supreme Court justices who were believed to be killed due to their pro-choice beliefs, but in reality, were likely killed for different reasons. Ms. Shaw’s instincts regarding these deaths are quite different and her defense of her beliefs are written in a brief that she provides to her law professor and lover. The professor also provides the brief to his friend, a member of the FBI. The story begins to unfold when Darby Shaw is targeted for her brief and her beliefs regarding the two deaths, including an invasion of her apartment and the theft of her belongings related to the brief, as well as her commitment to finding out the truth of what really happened. Through a series of complex events, the story unfolds at a rapid pace and demonstrates that there is a unique connection between Darby Shaw and a reporter named Gray Grantham, portrayed by Denzel Washington, who have discovered the truth behind the murders and the subsequent indictment of Victor Mattiece, an oil magnate seeking revenge towards the two Supreme Court justices that prohibited his drilling efforts in an area of Louisiana where endangered pelicans reside. Mattiece was responsible for the murders and the actions taken against Darby Shaw, which eventually led to Darby’s disappearance into hiding.

The story unfolds quickly and demonstrates a number of communication frameworks that are relevant to the film. For example, Darby Shaw was somewhat shamed into silence by her efforts to uncover the truth behind the murders. This describes elements of power and coercion as endorsed by the government and by the rich in this instance and describes the ability to silence one’s views through these efforts. In general, “Power is the ability to affect others to obtain preferred outcomes, and that can be done through coercion and payment or attraction and persuasion” (Nye). In the film, the power and authority exercised through money and wealth demonstrate the importance of this approach in stopping communication altogether by influencing outcomes in a negative manner (Nye).

It is also important to identify how the legal system is continuously altered by different attitudes and beliefs associated with communication and the presence of political power and persuasiveness in different ways. It is evident that the development of a legal communication framework must consider the different political perspectives that influence legal outcomes in many different areas. Law in and of itself is a form of communication and requires an effective understanding of the different elements that contribute to a change in anticipated outcomes and the ability to focus on different perspectives to change legal discourse in different ways (Van Hoecke). In this context, it is observed that the film uses legal communication in the form of a brief as a means of evaluating specific factors related to legal precedent and related outcomes for many persons, even of the outcomes are less than desirable (Van Hoecke). The film appears to portray the legal ramifications of an individual attempting to uncover the real truth rather than masking it. Therefore, the film is representative of a commonly used approach throughout the legal system that makes it difficult for witnesses and the like to share the truth and to identify examples and situations that are legally relevant to a case.

Conclusion

The creation of an environment whereby the tools of communication impact the final outcome is not a surprise; however, the impact of these decisions and their overall ability to influence the direction of the outcome may not always be in the best interests of those seeking to identify the facts and to uncover the truth. “The Pelican Brief” encompasses communication in the form of power and coercion to their fullest extent and does not readily embrace the truth as it is revealed through Darby Shaw’s brief. The film attempts to silence Darby Shaw through powerful means and to silence her ability to communicate regarding the situation by making her as vulnerable as possible, given the circumstances. Therefore, these machinations are successful and are not uncommon in some legal environments where there is less control over the ability of lawyers, judges, and other officials to be effective in demonstrating their willingness to achieve their own gain, even if it negatively impacts innocent individuals in the process. This is perhaps the essence of miscommunication in its finest form within the legal system.

Outline

Introduction: The film “The Pelican Brief” exemplifies miscommunication in a unique manner and represents a challenge to the status quo through the development of a complex set of legal scenarios that do not embrace the real truth. The efforts made throughout the film by the protagonist Darby Shaw represent her own form of truth through her willingness to communicate her beliefs to others in her circle. However, those attempting to cover up the truth are not necessarily in agreement with these efforts and seek to silence Ms. Shaw and her efforts as much as possible. This leads to challenging and debilitating conditions in the story that are difficult to overcome for Darby Shaw without extreme sacrifices in her own life.

Analysis: Communication assumes a challenging form in “The Pelican Brief” through the elements of extreme silencing and coercion with the exercise of power for the individuals seeking to overcome adversity and to uncover the truth of two horrific murders. From this perspective, the film demonstrates the emotional impact and force of the power of individuals who do not want the truth revealed and how these efforts play a role in forever changing the lives of those wanting the truth to come out. In this instance, Darby Shaw is an example of a woman who wants truth and justice, but instead, loses her former life in the process because her decisions place her in great jeopardy. In this example, Darby Shaw’s desire to reveal the truth leads to her own silence through her own personal loss. In this instance, her ability to communicate is forever changed and altered in a significant manner that cannot be overcome. Therefore, the legal system possesses many communication strengths and weaknesses that must be addressed in an effort to identify the truth in its purest form.

Works Cited

Nye, Joseph S. Jr. “The changing name of coercive power.” 19 May 2013: http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/10578/the-changing-nature-of-coercive-power

Van Hoecke, Mark. Law as Communication. Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2002.

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Movie Review

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