Timecode: 12:59 – 16:49
Commander, Lt. Kaffee’s generally considered the best litigator in our office. He’s successfully plea bargained 44 cases in nine months.
One more and I get a set of steak knives.
If you’re a dedicated reader of this blog¹, you may remember that I said Kevin Pollak was the perfect scene partner for Tom Cruise. Well, I was wrong, ladies and gentlemen. Because there is, in fact, another co-star that helps Cruise soar to even greater heights in AFGM. And no, it’s not Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, or Jack Nicholson. I’m speaking, of course, about the juicy, Red Delicious apple² that Kaffee has a torrid love affair with during his first meeting with Galloway.
There’s just no denying it: the first half of this scene is a fucking master class in how business³ can enhance a performance. And as such, it absolutely
warrants requires a thorough, bite-by-bite, A Few Good Minutes breakdown:
• Kaffee arrives at Galloway’s door with Sam at his side and the apple already down to the nub. I have to assume that Danny skipped lunch to hit Sherby a few more grounders, and this apple is all that’s standing between him and dangerously low blood sugar.
• And yet, lo and behold, that “same” apple is a good 15-20% less eaten when he walks into the office (continuity error alert!) We’ll get to why that is in a second, but first, a couple of important questions: how much apple did Tom Cruise have to eat before they finished shooting this scene? And did he have to camp out in his trailer later that afternoon because of it⁴?
• Back to the magically more-intact apple for a second. Why would Cruise trade out flimsy apple #1 for the beefier apple #2, you ask? Because he wanted to achieve peak “pig at a laua” comedic effect when he puts said apple in his mouth (pictured above), while searching his briefcase for the crumpled up piece of paper that he jotted Galloway’s name down on.
• It also gives us a spectacular, “Stars: They’re Just Like Us!” moment a second later, when Cruise turns profile to the camera and there’s a giant, glistening smear of apple juice across his cheek.
• Then, the second he’s invited to sit down, he grabs a chair, takes a thoroughbred-level bite out of the apple, and doubles down on the business by licking residual apple juice off of his hand.
• Before the scene is over, he actually goes to the “apple in his mouth to free up his hand bit” three times: first when he knocks on the door, then when he’s searching for Galloway’s name, and finally, when he passes the Dawson & Downey file to Sam (like it’s a hot potato) upon receiving it from Galloway.
• And then there’s the coup de grâce: with the apple finally finished, Cruise’s eyes dart around the room looking for some place to dispose of the core⁵. This gets Demi into the act, as she fishes the garbage can from beneath her desk and offers it to Cruise with a glare that says far more about how she feels about Kaffee than any dialogue ever could. The business is so good that you could watch the scene with the sound muted, and you could still understand their dynamic.
• Okay, I lied, that wasn’t the final final blow, because everyone knows that when you eat a juicy piece of fruit by hand, your hands become a sticky fucking nightmare! And don’t think Tom Cruise – the everyman of everymen — is going to let us forget it. No, sir! He resorts to the same “Miyagi hands” approach that every last one of us has used while trying to unstickify⁶ our hands when there’s no water, soap or paper towels available.
I mean, my god! Give the man his due. Forget a set of steak knives, Cruise deserves an Oscar and a paring knife made of Valyrian steel for that performance. (Oh, and throw in one of these while you’re at it; they make apple pie-making a fucking breeze!)
Taken as a whole⁷, Kaffee’s tête–à–tête with the Red Delicious helps to pound home (one final time before the story really gets rolling) both his boyish charm (because, really, what’s more boyish and charming than a farm boy gnawing on an apple from the orchard?) and the nonchalance with which he treats everything
The key turn in the scene, however, comes when Kaffee tries to wriggle his way out of Galloway’s interrogation by giving her the Dave Spradling treatment (he of the oregano prosecution):
Right. Is that all?
Lieutenant, this letter makes it look like your client had a motive to kill Santiago.
Am I correct in assuming that these letters don’t paint a flattering picture of marine corps life at Guantanamo Bay?
Yes, among —
Am I further right in assuming that a protracted investigation of this incident might cause some embarrassment for the security counsel guy.
Colonel Jessep, but —
I’ll get them to drop the conspiracy and conduct unbecoming. Twelve years.
You haven’t talked to a witness or looked at a piece of paper.
Pretty impressive, huh?
You’re gonna have to go deeper than that.
When Spradling told Kaffee, “I don’t know why I’m agreeing to this” when they settled the oregano case, you could tell that it wasn’t the first time Kaffee’d heard that line before. Given his considerable charisma and that aforementioned charm, it’s probably safe to assume that Kaffee’d heard that line non-stop in the 9 months since he joined the Navy: from JAG lawyers at the end of every plea bargain and from D.C. co-eds before every last call.
But not this time. Not on Jo’s watch. I mean, say what you will about her as a litigator, but no one can question Joanne Galloway’s ability to crawl up a lawyer’s ass. Her jurisdiction is — and always has been — IN. YOUR. FACE. So, buckle up, Kaffee: you’re in the big leagues now.
Oh, and you’re dismissed, by the way.
I know, I know. You always forget that part.