YEAR:  1993

ROLE:  Thomas Callahan

DIRECTOR:  Alan J. Pakula

PREMIERE:  December 17, 1993

Plot Summary

24-year-old college student Darby Shaw is having an affair with Thomas Callahan, her law professor, when two Supreme Court Justices are murdered, one of them a former mentor of Callahan. Darby closets herself in the archives until she has produced "The Pelican Brief," her solution to the crimes. The brief finds its way to the White House and the FBI which are implicated by association, and Darby becomes the target for an army of agents. In desperation, she contacts reporter Gray Grantham at his Washington newspaper to enlist him as co-conspirator in proving her case. Based on the novel by John Grisham.

Denzel WASHINGTON........Gray Grantham
Julia ROBERTS.........................Darby Shaw
John HEARD..........................Gavin Vereek
Stanley TUCCI................................Khamel
John LITHGOW........................Smith Keen
Robert CULP................................President
Hume CRONYN.............Justice Rosenberg

Movie Stills

John Ferguson, Radio Times:
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.

James Berardinelli, Reel Reviews:
The supporting cast is impressive, with names like Robert Culp, John Heard, Sam Shepard, and John Lithgow turning in solid performances. Likewise, Denzel Washington brings a calm self-possession, bordering on arrogance, to the role of Gray Grantham. This may be the only film character to approach the level of the book version, and much of it can be credited to Washington's work. Julia Roberts' Darby Shaw, however, is an unmitigated disaster. Roberts simply doesn't have the range required for the role

Film critic Joan Ellis:
Julia Roberts is consistently good as the smart gal in charge. Denzel Washington plays her support system with dignity and charm, and together they build a thoroughly convincing chemistry. Sam Shepard is effective as the lover hobbled by drink, John Heard is a fine dumb-but-good FBI man, and Tony Goldwyn is terrific as the presidential mouthpiece.

San Antonio Express News:  
"The Pelican Brief" cuts to the chase immediately. The movie is a fast-moving nail-biter that uses the major plot points of John Grisham's bestseller to involve the audience. Writer-director Alan Pakula keeps the momentum at a high pitch with many of the camera tricks he used so effectively in "All the President's Men".

Brian Lowry, Variety:
Casting in supporting roles is equally meticulous, with top-notch performances all around even in such limited exposure as that afforded Shepard and Heard.

The Ace Black Blog
Julia Roberts, still refreshingly eager to please and not yet the diva, is appealing as Darby Shaw, despite remaining surprisingly sane as the bodies pile up around her. Denzel Washington is equally in his energetic prime, and provides the most solid core to the movie as investigative reporter Gray Grantham. In support, the likes of Sam Shepard, John Heard, Robert Culp, John Lithgow and Hume Cronyn ensure that the secondary characters add plenty of colour to the proceedings, providing enough distraction from the progressively more improbable drama to maintain interest.

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Because the atmosphere is skillfully drawn, because the actors are well cast and because Pakula knows how to construct a sequence to make it work, the movie delivers... One thing the movie proves conclusively is the value of star power. Julia Roberts, returning after two years off the screen, makes a wonderful heroine - warm, courageous, very beautiful. Denzel Washington shows again how credible he seems on the screen; like Spencer Tracy, he can make you believe in almost any character.

Greensboro News & Record:
"The Pelican Brief," based on the book by John Grisham, takes the audience on a labyrinth of various paths containing intriguing evidence that bewilders and baffles the mind.Directed by Alan J. Pakula, Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington both capture the screen in a crucial relationship that proves beneficial to their well-being.

Chris Hicks, Deseret News:
Full of cameo roles filled by high-profile actors, the performances here are uniformly good, though the film's real scene-stealer is John Lithgow, hilarious as Washington's wry editor. Roberts is well-cast in the lead, as is Washington

Ty Burr, Entertainment Weekly:
Director Alan Pakula does to the John Grisham best-seller what he did three years ago to Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent: He stretches it out, films it in deep, important browns, and leaches the juice from his actors.

Janet Maslin, NY Times
It is the closest thing to an exact transcription of Mr. Grisham's novel as might have been imagined, to the point where the author's devoted readers will experience strong deja vu. The story, neatly compressed, unfolds in dependable and photogenic ways. And it is coaxed along by Mr. Pakula's considerable skills as a brisk, methodical film maker.

Empire Magazine:
Like "The Firm", this is a starry, big buck exercise in amateur sleuthing, law, corruption, sudden death, spooky surveillance and evasion of capture, very true to the book this time and extremely well cast with Sam Shepard as Darby's boozehound law professor lover, John Heard as his FBI chum, Stanley Tucci as super-assassin Khamel, Tony Goldwyn as a power mad White House Chief of Staff, Robert Gulp as a doltish right wing US President to relish, and John Lithgow as Gray's editor.

Richmond Times Dispatch
Alan J. Pakula, who directed, co-produced and wrote the screenplay, has delivered one of the best book adaptations ever made, beginning with the pivotal assassinations.

Alan J. Pakula's "The Pelican Brief", from the John Grisham best seller, niftily plants its hooks into the audience, promising a taut, paranoid thriller along the lines of the director's early gems, "Klute" and "The Parallax View".