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High Crimes

A FEISTY attorney, a double life, an alcoholic brilliant `wild card lawyer', and intrigue — all add up to make the 20th Century venture "High Crimes". One of those dusty, mass thrillers that you know where it is heading, but can't avoid sitting right till the end to find vindication for your own assumptions of the characters.

Clark Kubick (Ashley Judd) is a high-powered attorney — successful and sharp. But she is also a loving wife, desperately wanting to have a baby with her blank looking, hunk of a husband Tom (Jim Caviezel), a former marine.

Life is idyllic and Tom potters about doing carpentry. One day, while coming home after Christmas shopping, federal agents swamp the couple and take Tom into custody. And why is that? Well, apparently he is wanted for murder — in the first degree it appears, during his stint as a soldier at El Salvador in 1988.

He is said to have killed nine civilians in cold blood and has been a wanted man all this while. Clark is shocked and devastated at this double life — a life she knows nothing about. But she loves him so much and is so convinced about his innocence, she decides to defend him and is determined to prove him above board in a martial court — how she goes about that is interestingly done.

She teams up with a military lawyer, Lt Embry (Adam Scott) and a local attorney, Charles Grimes (Morgan Freeman) who is way past his prime, but nevertheless interested in making the military court look extremely foolish. Together they try to fight — and the system is difficult — to ultimately touch upon some sensitive issues and high-ranking officials (predictable huh?), and clear Tom's name. But does that happen?

The film based on a novel by Joseph Finder, is one of those typical courtroom dramas with enough twists, turns and tensions to carry it forward — except that the situations aren't exactly new and neither are they without the clichés and formula. But it is like watching a John Grisham book in action and the director Carl Franklin keeps the film moving forward, even in the face of some inconsistencies and some very lacklustre casting.

If there is anything that brings the screen to life, they are the scenes with Morgan and Judd, (a commanding actress, who has found her niche in empowerment films — "Double Jeopardy", "Someone Like You") who work well together and share a strange chemistry that is not entirely unpleasant.

Their disparate, yet common objects of uncovering the truth no matter how unpalatable are nicely done which makes you admire them. And just when you think its all over and you can heave a sigh of cathartic relief, there is that twist. However, if you are one of those legal thriller freaks, you would pretty much guess the outcome and enjoy figuring it out as well.

CHITRA MAHESH

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