When three star General Irwin is transferred to a maximum security military prison, its warden, Colonel Winter, can't hide his admiration towards the highly decorated and experienced soldier. Irwin has been stripped of his rank for disobedience in a mission, but not of fame. Colonel Winter, who runs the prison with an iron fist, deeply admires the General, but works with completely different methods in order to keep up discipline. After a short while, Irwin can feel Winter's unjust treatment of the inmates. He decides to teach Winter a lesson by taking over command of the facility and thus depriving him of his smug attitude. When Winter decides to participate in what he still thinks of as a game, it may already be too late to win. Written by
Julian Reischl <email@example.com>
in the first cafeteria scene, Irwin (Robert Redford) tells a group of inmates after doing combat duty for a while, " life becomes snapshots", Nathan Muir, also played by Redford says a similar phrase to Tom Bishop in Spy Game (2001), as he trains him for the C.I.A. See more »
It was an error to have Irwin be a 3-star general. 3-star and 4-star generals hold their ranks temporarily, as long as they occupy a 3-star or 4-star position. When they are transferred from one 3- or 4-star position to another, the President must re-nominate them for Senate confirmation. If an officer is relieved (fired) from one of those positions, he reverts to 2-star by operation of law unless awaiting retirement (and then only for 60 days). Irwin was court-martialed, so the Army certainly wouldn't keep him in a 3-star slot. They'd relieve him and he'd go to court-martial as a 2-star. See 10 USC 601. See more »
[while in his cell]
Well, I thought your father was a good man. How's he doing?
Oh. Sorry to hear that. What happened?
He came home.
See more »
In an era when most new filmmakers seem less concerned with story than with figuring out new and creative ways to possibly damage their camera equipment, it's encouraging to see someone like Rod Lurie come along. A former film critic, Lurie has emerged in the last few years as a maker of old-fashioned "good movies well made". He impressed me last year with the political drama "The Contender", and this year he brings us "The Last Castle", a prison picture that overcomes some dramatic potholes to provide a solid two hours' worth of entertainment.
The castle in question here is a maximum security military prison, home to the armed forces' toughest offenders. The whole place is ruled by Col. Winter (James Gandolfini), a tinpot tyrant who delights in turning his prisoners against one another. Make them forget they are soldiers, make them forget they are MEN, and you will win...that's Winter's philosophy. Then, a monkey wrench is thrown into the works, in the form of Gen. Eugene Irwin (Robert Redford), a much-decorated three-star general court-martialed for a battlefield infraction. Irwin immediately sees Winter for what he is, and as his weeks in the prison wear on, he begins to realize that he is surrounded by SOLDIERS, tough, competent, and ready to fight. All they need is a general to get behind...and a villain to rally against.
"The Last Castle" is a character-driven piece, and is carried by the strengths of its performances. Robert Redford takes a character who is admittedly rather sketchily written and, through sheer force of his charisma and personality, turns him into someone quirky and specific. Irwin is more like the Sundance Kid than any character Redford has played in some time: a rebel battling against a system that has arrayed insurmountable odds against him. This time, however, Irwin is a product of the system, and he knows its rules. Redford conveys that wisdom with a bemused grin or a mere flex of his craggy but still handsome face. This, folks, is star power.
The actors surrounding him put in equally fine work. James Gandolfini is miles away from "The Sopranos" as the despotic Col. Winter, and makes him a fine villain, loathsome yet pathetic and curiously affecting at the same time. Mark Ruffalo comfortably wears the role of the prison bookie, a cynic whose father was a Vietnam P.O.W. with Irwin, and Clifton Collins, so creepy and evil as the assassin Frankie Flowers in "Traffic", turns in a drastically different turn here as a stuttering corporal who first recognizes Irwin's greatness.
Lurie helms this material with assured confidence. He gives the film a gritty, authentic look and feel, he knows how to recognize a dramatic moment and pay it off, and he handles the film's quieter scenes and its boisterous action payoffs with equal elan. Any way you slice it, it's just good filmmaking.
Though David Scarpa and Graham Yost spike their screenplay with memorable moments and fine dialogue, they shoot themselves in the foot with third-act implausibilities (you'll find yourselves asking more than once, "Now how did they manage to throw THAT together?") and an abrupt finale that leaves too many unanswered questions.
Still, even with these problems, "The Last Castle" is a solid, rousing piece of mainstream entertainment. It's well-made, it tells a good story without insulting your intelligence or your good taste, and it showcases some fine acting by veterans and newcomers alike. And I bet Lurie didn't even break any of his cameras. I'm sure Dreamworks appreciates that, if nothing else.
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