Robert Redford stars in this action drama as General Irwin, a respected three-star tactician whose career ends in disgrace when he's court-martialed and sent to The Castle, a maximum security military prison. Irwin quickly butts heads with the facility's autocratic warden, Colonel Winter (James Gandolfini), who runs his command with an iron fist, even killing prisoners when he deems it necessary. Irwin rallies his fellow convicts into a rag-tag army and leads them in a revolt against Winter, an action that the warden is ready to repel by violent means.
One of the medal ribbons on General Irwin's uniform (which he wears when he first arrives at the prison) is the Medal of Honor, the U.S. Military's highest decoration, awarded for acts of extreme bravery in combat. It's the blue one at the top of his rows of ribbons. See more »
The letter the General receives from his daughter has a return address of Ardmore, Oregon (a non-existent town) with the ZIP Code 95386. That ZIP code, however, is in Waterford, California. See more »
[to captain Pertz, while looking at Winter's military collection, while Winters overhears their conversation]
Any man with a collection like this is a man who's never set foot on a battlefield. To him a minié ball from Shiloh is just an artifact. But to a combat vet, it's a hunk of metal that caused some poor bastard a world of pain.
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The Last Castle was moderately entertaining but failed, in many parts, to make basic sense. However, seeing Rod Lurie's name associated with it afterwards made sense out of the senselessness.
You see, Lurie directed The Contender, a piece of ludicrously liberal drivel masquerading as a 'political thriller' that had plot holes the size of Abrams tanks. The Last Castle has similar logical inconsistencies driven by Lurie's eagerness to make us see the world from his different, challenging and ultimately fallacious view.
Sparing you the plot and the debates over details of accuracy (I have no idea whereabouts an officer places his collar insignia) what I fail to buy is why an obviously intelligent and experienced officer like Irwin (Redford) believes his only strategy is to start a prison riot in order to achieve his objective of removing Winter.
His tactics to achieve this, aided by some cinematic license, are impeccable and the most entertaining section of the film resides in his use of variants of classical siege weapons/tactics; catapult, trebuchet and phalanx that surprise and outwit Winter. The ironic message being that although Winter has a fascination with the weaponry of antiquity, he fails to see its true relevance in the field.
This can be extruded into a Lurian philosophy - Winter is a banal bureaucrat, a fascist in nature, hell - probably a Republican; whereas Irwin is the romantic hero - flawed but compassionate, patriotic and brilliant. A truly inspiring leader of men. It's liberals taking back their country in the spirit of Jackson and Jefferson.
Then what in hell does he expect to achieve with those tactics. His supposed aim is prisoner welfare and dignity, but it is unlikely that taking part in a riot is going to be in any of their individual interests even if they can present a compelling case against the conduct of the governor.
In the real world it is inconceivable that the unlawful killings for which Winter is blamed would not be investigated especially with the weight of Irwin's testimony behind it. Yet that avenue is barely explored before Irwin decides to launch a suicidal mutiny against the facility via an extremely dubious and subjective analysis of the army code governing conduct.
Irwin would know at this point that even if his plan succeeds, and even if Winter is dismissed, the consequences for himself will be catastrophic. Despite his exterior of calm and equanimity, the sane viewer can only see the revolt develop in terms of recklessness, not courage.
The film relies on Winter 'losing it' in the final reel to provide the Manichean cancelling-out of good and evil forces that it needs to avoid being ridiculous. If, as is much more likely, Winter took satisfaction in allowing Irwin to make his typically Liberal gesture of raising the flag, then had him arrested for inciting the riot, the events of the past half hour would be rendered entirely pointless.
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