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YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!
~ Jessup's most famous line.

Colonel Nathan Roy Jessup is the main antagonist of Aaron Sorkin's stage play A Few Good Men as well as its 1992 film adaptation.

He was portrayed by Jack Nicholson, who also portrayed Jack Torrance in the 1980 film The Shining, Daryl Van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick, The Joker in the 1989 Batman film, Jimmy Hoffa in the 1992 film Hoffa, and Frank Costello in the 2006 film The Departed.

Biography

Jessup was the commanding officer of the ground forces stationed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. His Marines worked as a machine with lots of help from his two right-hand men named Lt. Col. Matthew Markinson and Lt. Kendrick. When one of the men made a mistake, it was the job of the other men to never let that one Marine forget it. Jessup ordered a couple of Marines to use a hazing technique known as a "Code Red" on an underperforming Marine named Santiago, in order to get him out of the unit on a medical discharge. The Marines go too far, however, and accidentally kill Santiago.

Faced with incredible embarrassment, Jessup abusing his official power did everything he could to cover up the details of the order given to the two young Marines now on trial for murder. They were left out to dry, facts were covered up, and official documents were falsified. Attorney Lt. Daniel Kaffee is hired to plea bargain for the two Marines and sweep the case under a rug, but ends up uncovering a conspiracy.

When called to the stand, Col. Jessup condemns Kaffee as a hypocrite, enjoying the freedom Jessup fights for while questioning the means he uses to ensure it. In an unguarded moment, he admits that he ordered the "Code Red" because Santiago was dragging the rest of the unit down. He is later arrested in court.

Quotes

Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives! You don't want the truth, because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.
~ Jessup's monologue to Daniel Kaffee about Santiago's death
We use words like "honor", "code", "loyalty". We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said "thank you", and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a DAMN what you think you are entitled to!
~ Jessup's monologue to Daniel Kaffee about the Marines.
Kaffee: DID YOU ORDER THE CODE RED?!
Jessup:
YOU'RE GODDAMN RIGHT I DID!
~ Jessup finally confesses to have ordered the Code Red in an unguarded moment
You f--kin' people... you have no idea how to defend a nation. All you did was weaken a country today, Kaffee. That's all you did. You put people's lives in danger. Sweet dreams, son.
~ Jessup's last words to Kaffee during his arrest.

Trivia

  • In the stage version, Jessup was ranked a Lieutenant Colonel.

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