The Pelican Brief

The Pelican Brief

Alan J Pakula (1993)

12 Certificate


Our Score
When this was made, John Grisham's stock in Hollywood was so high that one of his shopping lists could probably have spawned a blockbuster movie. If it had done, it would undoubtedly have followed the formula consolidated by this, the second of the big-screen Grisham dramatisations: dense plotting, lots of legalese, two charismatic leads and a cavalcade of stars in small roles. Here, Julia Roberts plays the aspiring young legal eagle who stumbles across a massive conspiracy that reaches right to the Oval Office; her only ally is Denzel Washington's sceptical reporter, who finds himself investigating the scoop of a lifetime. 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. The plot combines legal thriller with conspiracy movie, so it's no surprise that the film's director is Alan J Pakula - whose previous work includes Presumed Innocent and The Parallax View - who weaves his way adeptly through the myriad characters and subplots.


A talented law student submits a brief about an obscure case linked to the assassinations of two judges. However, she unwittingly gets too close to the truth that the government is behind the murders and seeks a journalist's aide in proving her theory before she is assassinated. Legal thriller based on the book by John Grisham, starring Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Stanley Tucci and Sam Shepard.

Cast & Crew

Darby Shaw Julia Roberts
Gray Grantham Denzel Washington
Thomas Callahan Sam Shepard
Gavin Verheek John Heard
Fletcher Coal Tony Goldwyn
Denton Voyles James B Sikking
Bob Gminski William Atherton
President Robert Culp
Khamel Stanley Tucci
Justice Rosenberg Hume Cronyn
Smith Keen John Lithgow
Marty Velmano Anthony Heald
Stump Nicholas Woodeson
Edwin Sneller Stanley Anderson
Matthew Barr John Finn
Alice Stark Cynthia Nixon
Charles Morgan / Garcia Jake Weber
Eric East Casey Biggs
Rupert Christopher Murray
Sarge Sonny Jim Gaines
Director Alan J Pakula
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Other Information

Language: EnglishColourGuidance: May be edited for violence and swearing. Available on: video, DVD and Blu-ray