In The Frame

A convoluted thriller that is well worth a look.

A successful criminal lawyer with a great job and a loving husband, suddenly discovers that her husband’s a wanted war criminal and everything lands up in the military courts. Another one of those, you groan? Not really. This one has quite a few twists to keep it interesting.

Claire Kubik (Judd) is a ambitious, media-savvy criminal lawyer who’s work life is zooming off into the stratosphere. Her husband Tom (Caviezel) is the dream man - sensitive, quiet, loving. But one day he’s arrested by the FBI and Claire learns the truth. Turns out Tom is actually Ronald Chapman, a U.S. Marine who’s wanted for massacring nine innocents during a covert operation in Ecuador.

The charges against him seem stacked, since every member of his company swore against him. But Tom insists that his immediate superiors framed him, one of whom happens to be the most decorated and influential officer in the army. So now, Claire can either believe the word of her secretive husband or all the others. She decides to fight.

The only problem is the fact that the trial will be held in military court, which is a whole new ballgame. She is assigned an army lawyer, who just happens to be young and very inexperienced. Enter her last hope - Charlie Grimes (Morgan Freeman). Once a brilliant military lawyer, he’s now taken to drinking and running a law firm with a dog as his associate. Nevertheless, Claire believes in him enough to hire him on. And that’s where the fun begins.

Grimes lives up to his reputation as a major pain, by pushing the army guys. Meanwhile, Claire dumps her job and moves base to the army area, where she’s joined by her sister. Things soon start getting ugly, though. The army starts pressurising her and threats start emerging from all sources. It all comes to a head when she’s attacked in her own home. Frustrated with the wall of secrecy and indifference of the military, Claire and Charlie resort to desperate measures. They try direct confrontation and underhanded tricks, but to no avail. The junior lawyer is suspected of falling in with the enemy and the truth becomes more and more convoluted. The last half and hour is so full of twists and turns that it would be a sin to put them down here and make you miss the fun.

The story is quite simplistic, for a military/spy kind of plot. Nevertheless, Franklin does a great job in presenting it to us, drawing the tension out and spacing out the actual sequence of events well enough to keep our attention riveted. The scenes where Grimes goes at the opposition are brilliant. Unfortunately, though, there aren’t enough of them. There are so many sub-plots - the mysterious stranger stalking Claire, the army guys, Claire’s testing of her own faith in Tom, Grimes` attempts to find witnesses - that the court scenes are dealt with an (ironically) military efficiency. You also end up wishing that there’d be more detailing of the actual procedure related to military courts. But these points end up being skipped through, to keep the rest of the story interesting enough...which does happen. The suspense is slightly overdone at times and the scenarios do get a bit cliched, but they’re tastefully handled.

The main reason for watching this film would be to see the teaming up of Freeman and Judd, after their highly successful "Kiss The Girls". And they don’t disappoint at all. The two come across as old friends or, at least, as distant cousins (improbable though that sounds). Judd is excellent in this role, as the strong-willed woman who will not back down even though she’s thoroughly stymied by the situation she’s stuck in. Freeman is just too classy, with that smooth and easy effort he brings to his roles. He fits right in as the playful, yet innovative lawyer who loves being a pain in the army’s backside. Caviezel also turns in quite a decent performance, as the perfect guy who’s being set up and is trying very hard to convince his friends to believe in him. The rest also chip in with decent cameos.

The film is a decent mystery thriller that definitely is worth at least two looks. The cast is good, the story is built up to keep you interested and the overall film will definitely get you hooked.

This article was first published on 12 Jul 2002.