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LAST CASTLE, THE
Reviewed April 15th, 2002 by Brian White

 

After watching The Last Castle, Iím quite torn as to which film to write about. I come away from the experience feeling like Iíve seen two very different movies in one sitting. On the one hand, you have a male-bonding/military duty drama that is more than a little heavy-handed, but is nonetheless involving. On the other hand, you have an over the top, action-fantasy that is entertaining, but entirely unbelievable. The movie begins as one, and becomes the other. I could smell a ridiculous climax to this film on the horizon, and unfortunately I my movie sniffer was right.

Robert Redford stars as a three star general who is sent to a military prison after pleading guilty at his court marshal. James Gandolfini is Colonel Winters, who is in charge of the prison. Gandolfiniís character is quite two dimensional, and clichť. This is unfortunate, as Mr. Gandolfini could have done so much more if he was given a better part (or direction). You never feel as though he is sinister or dangerous. He is just a bad guy in a movie. Robert Redford is very good as the fallen general, who takes it upon himself to clean up the prison that has been corrupted by Winters.

The majority of the film is a battle of the wits between Redfordís and Gandolfiniís characters. Fortunately, this is where the movie excels. In fact, the evolution from the drama into the fantasy is quite interesting, as the former general builds an army in the most difficult of circumstances.

While a large climax is necessary, it might have been more effective to be more ingenious, and less McGyver-ish. Without giving anything away, you wonít be on the edge of your seat, because NONE of this could happen in the real world.

This is a great looking disc. Dreamworks has provided a fantastic 2.40:1 anamorphic transfer. This is a well-shot film. Director Rod Lurie and director of photography Shelly Johnson fill the screen with some beautiful imagery, utilizing both the barren prison, and the colonelís lofty office to full effect. The blue sky, and the sunset make great appearances in this film. Colors and clarity are excellent, with the slightest hint of grain to remind you that you arenít really there.

The disc contains both English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, and a lovely DTS surround track. The movie contains a great, atmospheric surround track. The inner prison wraps around the characters, and the noises surround the audience as well. The mix facilitates the film quite well, without dominating it. Well done.

For extras, you have a feature-length directorís commentary. Lurie is more anecdotal that technical, discussing the talents of the actors, and the story telling. He is a little self-congratulatory. You also have deleted scenes with directorís commentary. An HBO featurette is included, as are trailers, bios and production notes.

 

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