Law student Darby Shaw (Julia Roberts) writes up an insightful theory about the recent murder of two Supreme Court justices. When the President (Robert Culp) convinces the FBI to hold off on investigating Darby’s theory, the resourceful student must go into hiding, stalked by relentless assassin Khamel (Stanley Tucci). Her only hope of escaping death and proving her theory lies in Washington investigative reporter Gray Grantham (Denzel Washington)."> John Grisham OnlineThe Pelican Brief – John Grisham Online
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The Pelican Brief

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Law student Darby Shaw (Julia Roberts) writes up an insightful theory about the recent murder of two Supreme Court justices. When the President (Robert Culp) convinces the FBI to hold off on investigating Darby’s theory, the resourceful student must go into hiding, stalked by relentless assassin Khamel (Stanley Tucci). Her only hope of escaping death and proving her theory lies in Washington investigative reporter Gray Grantham (Denzel Washington).

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Embroiled in an affair with Thomas Callahan (Sam Shephard), her alcoholic professor, precocious 24-year-old Tulane University law student Darby Shaw (Julia Roberts) writes up an insightful theory about the recent murder of two Supreme Court justices, one of whom, Abraham Rosenberg (Hume Cronyn), served as Callahan’s mentor. When Callahan shares this so-called “Pelican Brief” with buddy Gavin Verheek (John Heard), an FBI lawyer, the document makes its way to White House flack Fletcher Coal (Tony Goldwyn), who believes it could topple the current administration.

When Callahan is murdered and the President (Robert Culp) convinces the FBI to hold off on investigating Darby’s theory, the resourceful student must go into hiding, stalked by relentless assassin Khamel (Stanley Tucci). Her only hope of escaping Callahan’s fate and proving her theory lies in Washington investigative reporter Gray Grantham (Denzel Washington), who’s already had one confidential source back out of sharing information about the assassinations.

This John Grisham adaptation is fairly faithful to the best-selling novel, but the book’s interracial romance between Shaw and Grantham was left out of the script (or at least the finished product), leaving many progressive viewers annoyed at Hollywood’s conservatism.

Fans of HBO’s Sex and the City will notice one of its future stars, Cynthia Nixon, in a small role as one of Darby’s New Orleans classmates.

Synopsis written by Brian J. Dillard, All Movie Guide

IMDB user rating: 6.3/10
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for momentary language and some violence.
Runtime: 141 min
Awards:

  • ASCAP Award (James Horner for Top Box Office Films)

Watch video clips of Julia Roberts promoting The Pelican Brief on David Letterman Show (in December 1993)

Cast
Julia Roberts – Darby Shaw
Denzel Washington – Gray Grantham
Sam Shepard – Thomas Callahan
John Heard – Gavin Verheek
Tony Goldwyn – Fletcher Coal
James B. Sikking – FBI Director F. Denton Voyles
William Atherton – Bob Gminski
Robert Culp – The President
Stanley Tucci – Khamel
Hume Cronyn – Justice Abraham Rosenberg
John Lithgow – Smith Keen
Edwin Newman – Himself
Cynthia Nixon – Alice Stark
Stanley Anderson – Edwin Sneller
Anthony Heald – Marty Velmano
Terrence Currier – Rosenberg’s Nurse
John Finn – Matthew Barr
Sonny Jim Gaines – Sarge
Kevin Geer – K.O. Lewis
Richard Bauer – Managing Editor
Joseph Chrest – Song & Dance Man from Bar
Ralph Cosham – Justice Jensen
Jake Weber – Charles Morgan/Garcia
Nicholas Woodeson – Stump
Casey Biggs – Eric East
Ed Johnson – W & B Security Guard
Christopher Murray – Rupert
Tom Quinn – Sara Ann Morgan’s Father
Harold Surratt – Parklane Security Officer
Alixe Gordin
Carol Sutton – New Orleans Policewoman

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