Timecode: 16:50 – 17:08
There’s an old adage that says no matter how many times you’ve seen a great movie (or read a great book), you always notice something new (and wonderful) each time you go back to it. Honestly, I didn’t think that was possible with AFGM – not because it isn’t great¹, but because I’ve seen it so many goddamn times². But boy, oh boy, was I wrong!
Last week, while I was studying the on-screen chemistry between Kaffee and that apple, I stumbled upon a small (but hilarious) detail that I’d never noticed before. And so, in true A Few Good Minutes fashion, I’m devoting this entire post to those 18 seconds of screen time and what they can possibly tell us about the greatest movie ever made³.
We now join our scene already in progress…
Kaffee has just been dismissed by Galloway, and Sam decides to stick around to explain away Danny’s devil-may-care attitude — ostensibly, to smooth things over with Jo (and possibly, to keep her from telling his boss, Captain Whitaker, that he and Danny are a couple of maroons):
He’s a little preoccupied. The team’s playing Bethesda Medical next week.
Tell your friend not to get cute down there. The Marines in Guantanamo are fanatical.
About being Marines.
It’s a great exchange, highlighted by the dismissive, matter-of-fact tone that Demi Moore delivers the last line. But there’s something even more amazing going on in the background. When Kaffee leaves the office, he turns right and heads off down the hallway (out of our view). But if you look closely, you see him re-appear in the doorway a beat later, heading the opposite direction (translation: Danny’s so out of it, he went the wrong way). Here’s the Zapruder-esque footage to prove it:
It’s the kind of comedic touch you’d expect from Buster Keaton or Lucille Ball. But what’s more important (at least for our purposes) is to think about the possible reasons for Danny’s about-face. (Do note, however, that whichever explanation you choose likely says more about you than it does Kaffee…)
Explanation #1 (a.k.a. the simplest explanation): Danny is just that oblivious.
Supporting Evidence: We’ve seen him look to Sam for explanations about everything from fence-lines to Colonel Jessep’s resume during the last two scenes. And while Kaffee certainly enjoys playing up his confusion for comedy’s sake (ex. “Was that 0600 in the morning, sir?”), it’s safe to assume that he legitimately has zero idea who Jessep is.
Explanation #2 (a.k.a. the MJ explanation): Danny has a Michael Jordan-esque will to win (at least when it comes to softball), and all he can think about is beating Bethesda Medical next week.
Supporting Evidence: Anyone willing to hit that many grounders to such a stone-handed doofus (a.k.a. Sherby) isn’t playing “just for funsies”. Insert obligatory Kaffee-Crying Jordan meme here:Explanation #3 (a.k.a. the “he’s finally met his match” explanation): While he’d never actually admit it, Kaffee was thrown off his game by Galloway’s “my jurisdiction is pretty much in your face” speech — either because she’s the first person to ever call him out on his bullshit, or because he’s sexually attracted to her (or both).
Supporting Evidence: Given what we’ve seen of his interactions with Spradling, Sam, and Captain Whitaker, Kaffee certainly hasn’t been pushed up to this point. So, at the very least, Jo’s “you’re gonna have to go deeper than that” comment is not something Danny’s heard much of in his professional life. And in the scene still to come, where Galloway calls him out yet again (this time in front of his entire softball team), he’ll allude to being sexually aroused by Jo’s take charge, dominatrix vibe⁴.
While it’s easy to default to the simplest explanation, I tend to lean towards Explanation #3, and here’s why:
Danny can’t be that oblivious; not unless this is a different movie, and it’s being directed by The Farrelly Brothers or The Zucker Brothers (or any other brothers known for incredibly broad comedy). Sure, Rob Reiner has superb comedic chops (and Cruise gives us some memorable comic moments in the film), but at the end of the day, this is a story that we’re supposed to take seriously (even if the main character is doing everything in his power not to up to this point). So, the idea that Kaffee would head the wrong direction simply because he’s not paying attention just doesn’t fit the tone that the movie is going for.
Even more to the point, Tom Cruise is a great actor. And like all great actors, his performances are defined by the unique and specific choices that he makes. Those choices aren’t arbitrary; they’re always acutely motivated.
And that’s why, until Tom Cruise tells me otherwise⁵, I will go to my grave convinced that the only explanation for Kaffee’s about-face is behind Door Number Three: Jo actually managed to get under his skin a little.