The Firm: A Screenplay with a Dark Side

By Matthew Pizana · January 3, 2015

The dream of any college student is to get a great job straight out of school that pays well and sets them on the right track for life. Throw in a house and a car and the job becomes a dream come true. The dream only dies when you find out the strings attached involve the mob, the feds and mysterious deaths of co-workers. The first of many John Grisham novels to make it to the big screen, The Firm follows Mitch as his dream of being a high priced attorney begins to unravel as he discovers his firm's client list may not be upstanding members of society.

Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise) is one of the best and brightest law students of his graduating class. While many firms try to recruit Mitch to join their team, he ultimately opts for a small firm in Memphis called Bendini, Lambert, and Locke. Mitch and his wife Abby (Jeanne Tripplehorn) pack up their things and head to Memphis where their new firm already has a house and car waiting for their arrival. Mitch goes immediately to work preparing for the bar exam, meeting his fellow colleagues, and meeting the big wigs and his firm appointed mentor Avery Tolar (Gene Hackman). Mitch works diligently for the firm with blinders on until the day when the office finds out two associates have died under potentially suspicious circumstances. Mitch is a little leery with his suspicions, but everything is confirmed when he is approached by the FBI. FBI agent Wayne Tarrance (Ed Harris) informs Mitch that the firm is connected to a mob family out of Chicago and the mysterious deaths of the firms associates are connected to some of their nefarious dealings. He is now stuck between helping the FBI and losing his license to practice law or continuing with the firm where he might be killed or end up in jail when the FBI finally takes down the firm. Mitch devices a plan where he can help the FBI take down the firm, but avoids breaking attorney client privilege thus allowing him to keep his license and maybe making a few dollars of profit in the process.


As powerful as Tom Cruise is as leading man, it's the smaller roles that make The Firm magic. Gary Busey is his normal maniac self as a private dick named Lomax who is a former cell mate of Mitch’s brother (who is played perfectly by David Strathairn). Like his character in films like History of Violence, Ed Harris plays Wayne Tarrance, an FBI man that will take down the firm with or without Mitch’s help. Wilford Brimley is not your friendly grandpa selling oatmeal in his role as William Devasher, the ruthless enforcer of the law firm ready to dole out violence and death against anyone who tries to take the firm down. Gene Hackman is a man that doesn’t want to know too much. He’s aware of the power the firm carries and wants to steer clear of trouble. Certainly the best of all the performances comes from Holly Hunter as Tammy, Eddie Lomax’s secretary who just so happens to be in the room when he is killed and knows who did it. The role earned her an academy award nomination.

The Firm represents a key moment in Tom Cruise's career. His previous work in roles from Top Gun to Rain Man propelled him to the character of Mitch McDeere putting him in the position to continue onto larger budget films eventually landing him the title role in Jerry Mcguire which garnered him an Oscar nomination. The Firm also marks one of the last great films directed by Sydney Pollack. With an extensive resume that includes Tootsie, Jeremiah Johnson, and The Yakuza, Pollack only helped to build his film bio with his most successful box office hit to date.   

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