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:: High Crimes

It's Christmas in San Francisco and, for Tom and Claire Kubik, life is swell. Trying for a baby amongst their busy schedules, Claire (Judd), a criminal defence lawyer, and Tom (Caviezel), a self-employed contractor, appears to have it all worked out. Amid rumours that announce her becoming partner of her law firm, Claire wishes desperately to fall pregnant to her husband, completing the idyllic life she has envisaged. But before the paint on the picket fence can dry, Tom and Claire become victims to an attempted burglary at their home and their entire world begins to spiral out of control. Within days, the FBI seizes the two and Tom is arrested. Angry and distraught about her husband’s entrapment, Claire demands that Tom be released convinced that theirs is a case of mistaken identity. But alas, there is no mistake. Tom Kubik, formerly Ronald Chapman, is wanted by the military for war crimes committed fifteen years ago in El Salvador during a covert military operation. Accused of murdering nine civilians, Tom admits to his former life as Ronald Chapman, yet maintains that he is innocent of the heinous crime.

Shocked and betrayed by her lover's confession, Claire finds herself in a kind of personal turmoil, not knowing whether she should believe the man she loves in light of his deceit. Still unsure of whom her husband really is, Claire decides to defend Tom, joining forces with Lieutenant Embry (Scott), an inexperienced military attorney assigned to the case by the powers that be. With little confidence in her young colleague's ability and even less knowledge of the workings of military law and the military court system, she finds herself is desperate need of assistance. Ex-military attorney, Charlie Grimes (Freeman) is the perfect candidate for the job. Shunned from the military years earlier, Grimes knows all there is to know about the courtroom games which must be played in such a trial and despite being aware of the rules, he isn't afraid to break them. After a little arm-twisting, Claire succeeds in getting Grimes on side and together they form a strong bond; one determined to see her husband alleviated of such distressing charges; the other determined to once again confront the system which had him booted from the military fraternity. Claire, Grimes and Embry delve into the case, discovering cover-ups and half truths which not only allude to Tom's innocence but point accusing fingers at others as those responsible for the crimes. The web of intrigue becomes quite tangled and Claire herself feels that someone is set to shut her up.

A dramatic courtroom thriller, High Crimes does have its moments. While elements of the story don't add up or seem a little far-fetched, the fast talking courtroom scenes and powerful performances by both Freeman and Judd allow the mind to wash over the film's inconsistencies. A little hard to ignore however, is the racy relationship that blossoms between Lieutenant Embry and Claire's sister, Jackie (Peet). It seems superfluous to the story and fails to convince that it, in any way, contributes to the eventual unravelling of the situation. Nevertheless, an eye for detail, by director Carl Franklin, does redeem the film in many ways, as he suitably weaves crucial aspects into the story early, to ensure a cohesive narrative when it comes time to draw a conclusion. This interesting insight into the workings of military law in a little guy versus big guy type showdown will keep you entertained and may even get your heart racing. Furthermore, despite its occasional departures from credibility, the story runs at a reasonable pace and fortunately leaves the viewer with little chance to contemplate the logistics of the events occurring in front of them, or at least until the drive home.

Screening on general release