Top critical review
The second time not a charm?
on April 8, 2003
High Crimes is a drama, centered around the efforts of San Francisco based lawyer Claire Kubik (Ashley Judd) to vindicate her ex-marine husband Tom (James Caviezel), who is charged with the murder of some villagers, while on a mission in El Salvador, twelve years previous. Husband Tom, (real name Ron) was a member of a small unit, sent to ferret out a terrorist. Though what actually happened is in dispute, the end result was nine dead civilians killed by Marine fire.
Charged with "high crimes", Tom is held for trial in a USMC base in San Lazaro, CA. His appointed counsel is green Marine lawyer, Lt. Embry (Adam Scott). Claire joins the defense team, but seeks someone with expertise in military procedures to bolster the team. Enter "wild card" Charlie Grimes, (Morgan Freeman) a civilian lawyer with past JAG experience. Together, along with Claire's sister, Jackie (Amanda Peet), the defense team works to uncover the "truth".
Freeman and Judd star in their second film together, having first worked together in 1998's "Kiss the Girls". And indeed, it is the interplay between the two that creates most of the interest in the story. However, this alone is not enough, and the illogical plot twists added to create excitement and maintain interest, produce a rather formulamatic tale, that ultimately leaves one disappointed. Freeman's performance is steady, but not special. Judd does an excellent job displaying a wide range of emotions. Yet neither can overcome the weakness of the story.
Director Carl Franklin's commentary track, provides a wealth of trivia, and too often he tends to speak of his other films and filmmaking in general rather than comment specifically on what we are seeing.
High Crimes is a film that is OK to see once. If the ending disappoints you, you probably won't give it a second viewing.