A Few Good Men is one of my favorite movies, and any time it is on TNT, I’m down for watching it. But there’s a plot hole I’ve noticed over time, and I created an account here just to get your guys’ feedback and see if I’m missing something. This plot hole really comes in 3 parts…the first 2 I can rationalize but the 3rd I really can’t. They all have to do with the prosecution’s case against Dawson and Downey. Especially Downey.
The prosecution’s case is that Private Santiago wanted to get transferred so he wrote to some internal affairs team that in exchange for a transfer he would provide information on Dawson’s illegal fenceline shooting. Kendrick then shared this information with the troops, but ordered them not to take matters into their own hands. Dawson and Downey saw this as an opportunity to murder Santiago to shut him up by shoving a poisoned rag down his throat, while making it look like a Code Red.
Plot hole #1: If they were ordered not to take matters into their own hands, why would Dawson and Downey think that they could get away with killing Santiago in a manner that looked like a Code Red? It would be immediately suspicious given the order not to touch Santiago, and an investigation would surely condemn them. It just doesn’t make any sense that Dawson and Downey would plan the murder in this way.
I’m willing to let this one slide under the auspice of “sometimes characters do dumb stuff.” But plot hole 2 is a little more serious.
Plot hole #2: Dawson has the motive to kill Santiago, not Downey (it’s Dawson who was involved in the fenceline shooting). So isn’t Downey’s only provable crime as they are entering the trial that he disobeyed Kendrick’s order not to touch Santiago? There is no evidence of a conspiracy between Downey and Dawson. From Downey’s point of view, this was just Dawson telling him “forget what Kendrick said, we’re giving this guy a Code Red.” Then Dawson poisons the rag without Downey knowing, and Santiago dies. At this point, isn’t the worst thing they could really do to Downey is give him a dishonorable discharge for disobeying Kendrick’s order and obeying Dawson’s instead?
Now alright, maybe Downey is not willing to take a dishonorable discharge. He and Downey certainly do not respond well to the plea bargain offer of 2 years and a dishonorable discharge, maybe even a dishonorable discharge in and of itself is unacceptable to him. But this brings us to Plot hole #3, which is really just an extension of Plot hole #2.
Plot hole #3: Downey never heard Kendrick say not to touch Santiago. His jeep broke down and he missed the meeting. This means that all Downey was doing was following Dawson’s order to give the code red. He wasn’t knowingly disobeying Kendrick’s order because he never heard it! Could the prosecution have suspected that Downey was in on a conspiracy with Dawson to help him kill Santiago. Sure. But they could not prove it in a court of law. Downey had no motive.
Galloway was Downey’s attorney. As soon as Smilin’ Jack Ross proved in court that Downey did not hear Kendrick order the Code Red, her responsibility to her client would have been to sever the joint defense with Dawson. The government had no case against Downey at this point. All the government would be able to prove is that Downey executed a Code Red ordered by his superior against a Marine he had no motive to kill, with a rag that they cannot prove he knew was poisoned. After Noah Wylie’s character gets on the stand and talks about how common Code Reds are, even a dishonorable discharge seems like a stretch for the prosecution to get against Downey. In the end, Dawson and Downey did get dishonorable discharges for the Code Red, but the prosecution would not have considered that a slam dunk against Downey and in any case would not have cared enough to continue with the trial against him. Dawson was the man they had dead to rights….they needed someone to blame, and he would be the guy. The case vs Downey would be dropped, and he’d be turned into a prosecution witness.
I have a hard time getting around this plot hole. I suppose it’s possible one of the other guys in the squad told Downey about the prohibition against touching Santiago. But we’re never told that. I guess it’s also possible that Downey is the only one who handles the rag from start to finish, (he is the one who shoves the rag in Santiago’s mouth at the beginning of the movie) eliminating his ability to truthfully testify that it’s possible Dawson poisoned the rag without his knowledge. But again, this is not information we’re given. It’s just a big plot hole with no explanation.
Am I missing something?