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If you took a Leo Tolstoy class in college or read one of his works during your time at the library and wanted to know a bit more about the man, don't really look to The Last Station. Does that make it a poor film? Not by a long shot.
The film follows the story of Leo (Christopher Plummer) and Sofya Tolstoy (Helen Mirren), married couple for 43 years, and the battle that raged between them at the end of Leo's life. As Leo's health is ailing, his long time friend Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti) urges Leo to write a new will, renouncing his material possessions, leaving his wife and family with nothing. All of this is in order to have Leo's movement of peace to go to the majority. Chertkov sends a young follower of the Tolstoyan movement, Valentin Bulgakov, to investigate and inscribe all of Sofya's exaggerated and histrionic antics to work against her campaign.
Firstly, the film is A-typical period piece with all the correct elements of that type of film. Art Direction by Mark Rosinski and Heike Wolf, stunning costume design by Monika Jacobs, and a score to die for by Sergei Yevtushenko is pitch perfect and exalted brilliance. Nothing is wrong with this film technically.
An extraordinary narrative beautifully adapted by the director Michael Hoffman is one of the crowning achievements of his career. Dedicating his all for the sake of the art form, Hoffman writes and directs the screen with meticulousness and accuracy. Playing that extra special detail to smooth out an rough edges paid off for Hoffman immensely.
The cast presented in The Last Station is stellar and one of the best cast ensembles of the 2009. James McAvoy, proving once again, that you don't just lay down the words of your acting, you let the spirit fight its way through your soul and remain a tangible entity for your audience to engage. McAvoy proves he's one of Hollywood's most outstanding talents. Helen Mirren, riding the see-saw with her viewers, never declares any type of emotion until the bitter end. Mirren shows no apparent ambiance of mood or expression. She sizzles through the film, igniting every scene on fire along the way. Christopher Plummer as the lovable Leo is amiable, captivating, and entrancing. Plummer, a talent long overdue for Oscar recognition is enticing. Paul Giamatti, in a more villainous role we haven't seen of him before, is always dependable and alluring. Anne-Marie Duff and Kerry Condon are both enthralling in their roles respectively.
The Last Station is a definite contender for a Best Picture nomination. It's a delightful film full of heart, love, and heartbreak. The temptation of the films aura will lure you in and surely leave you in tears.
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