The Pelican Brief

The Pelican Brief Information

The Pelican Brief is a 1993 legal crime thriller based on the novel of the same name by John Grisham. Directed by Alan J. Pakula, the film stars Julia Roberts in the role of young law student Darby Shaw and Denzel Washington as Washington Herald reporter Gray Grantham. Music was composed by James Horner.


Two Supreme Court justices are assassinated by the professional assassin "Sam" Khamel (Stanley Tucci).

Tulane University Law School student Darby Shaw (Julia Roberts) suspects the real motive might be simple greed, not politics. She writes a legal brief, and shows it to her law professor, mentor and lover Thomas Callahan (Sam Shepard). He gives a copy to his friend Gavin Verheek (John Heard) at the FBI.

Callahan is killed by a car bomb; Darby escapes because she would not get into the car with her drunk lover. She realizes she is under surveillance and is attacked by an unknown assailant. Realizing that her brief was accurate, she goes into hiding and reaches out to Verheek for help.

Political reporter Gray Grantham (Denzel Washington) is contacted by an informant who calls himself "Garcia" who claims to have information about the assassinations. "Garcia" disappears. Darby then contacts Grantham and mentions the Pelican Brief; Grantham discovers the information Darby discloses has validity.

Darby finds out that her computer, disks and files are gone from her apartment. Soon after, she is attacked again, but again escapes. She contacts Verheek and arranges to meet him in a crowded public place. Prior to their meeting, Verheek is murdered by Khamel, who then goes to the meeting impersonating Verheek. Before Khamel can kill her he is shot and killed by an unknown agent.

Darby contacts Grantham again and agrees to meet him in New York City. There, she gives him the details of her brief.

The legal brief speculates that the assassinations were committed on behalf of Victor Mattiece, an oil tycoon who wants to drill for oil on a Louisiana marshland which is a major habitat of an endangered species of pelicans. A court case on appeal is expected to make its way to the Supreme Court. The two slain justices had a history of environmentalism "? their only common view "? and thus Darby surmised that Mattiece hoped to turn the case in his favor by eliminating the two justices, thus leaving the President to appoint new justices more likely to rule in his favor.

Grantham tells her about "Garcia", and together they discover that "Garcia" is Curtis Morgan (Jake Weber), a lawyer in the oil and gas division of White & Blazevich in Washington.

Darby visits White & Blazevich, pretending to have an appointment with Morgan. She is told that he had been killed. She suspects that his discovery of incriminating evidence was the real reason for his murder. She and Grantham visit his widow, who gives them a key to a safe deposit box.

Darby visits the bank to retrieve the contents of the box. When she and Grantham return to their vehicle, Grantham has difficulty starting the car. Darby recognizes the faltering sound as the same sound she heard just before Callahan was killed. They flee the vehicle and are pursued by a car, which crashes into their parked vehicle, detonating the bomb and killing one of their pursuers.

They escape to the Washington Herald building, where they review the documents and a videotape recovered from Morgan's box. The tape confirms Morgan's discovery that Mattiece ordered the assassination of the justices and the documents confirm the accusations. With the evidence that he needs, Grantham writes his story. He gives the FBI a chance to comment. Director Voyles (James B. Sikking) on the record confirms that the Pelican Brief was delivered to the White House; off the record, he reveals that the President ordered the FBI to "back off". He tells Darby that CIA agents were investigating Mattiece, and that one of them killed Khamel to save her life. A plane is arranged for Darby to flee the country.

The movie ends with Darby at her hideaway, watching Grantham being interviewed on TV, where it is revealed that Mattiece and two of his lawyers have been indicted in federal court, the President's chief of staff has resigned, and the President himself will not run for office again. Grantham deflects speculation that Darby is fictional, but does agree that she is "almost" too good to be true. Her life having been saved, Darby smiles as the screen cuts to black.

Differences from book

The film does not contain the murder of Matthew Barr and therefore does not show the primary antagonist, Victor Mattiece.

Gray Grantham is Caucasian in the book. He is portrayed by Denzel Washington, an African-American, in the film.

The villains continue their hot pursuit as Darby Shaw opens the safe-deposit box, putting a bomb in Gray Grantham's car and shooting at both in the parking garage in the film but not in the book.


  • Darby Shaw (Julia Roberts) - second year Tulane University Law School student; author of the brief
  • Gray Grantham (Denzel Washington) - reporter for the fictional Washington Herald
  • Fletcher Cole (Tony Goldwyn) - White House Chief of Staff; unofficial head of power
  • Khamel "Sam" (Stanley Tucci) - international assassin
  • Thomas Callahan (Sam Shepard) - Tulane law school professor; romantically involved with Darby Shaw
  • Gavin Verheek (John Heard) - lawyer, special counsel to the FBI director; friend to Thomas Callahan
  • F. Denton Voyles (James B. Sikking) - Director of the FBI
  • Alice Stark (Cynthia Nixon) - Darby Shaw's friend
  • Bob Gminski (William Atherton) - CIA Director
  • The President (Robert Culp) - elected U.S. President whose name is unspecified and is always referred to as "the President"; delegates many administrative duties to Fletcher Cole
  • Smith Keen (John Lithgow) - Gray Grantham's boss, an assistant managing editor at the fictional Washington Herald
  • Justice Rosenberg (Hume Cronyn) - eldest, most controversial Supreme Court Justice
  • Justice Jensen (Ralph Cosham) - youngest Supreme Court Justice; apparently homosexual
  • Curtis Morgan (aka Garcia) (Jake Weber) - lawyer for White & Blazovitch who stumbles across an incriminating memo, costing him his life.
  • Marty Velmano (Anthony Heald) - senior attorney at White & Blazovitch and conspirator on Victor Mattiece's behalf
  • Stump (Nicholas Woodeson) - assassin who stalks Darby Shaw


The film received mostly mixed reviews from critics. Pat Collins, from WWOR-TV, said that the film was, "A heart-stopping, spine-chilling, adrenaline-pumping, run-for-your-life thriller." It currently holds a 52% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Box office

The film grossed $195,268,056 worldwide.

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "The_Pelican_Brief_%28film%29" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



Page generated in 0.28678297996521 seconds