Last Castle on DVD
The Last Castle pits Robert Redford against the establishment in a proudly
flag waving military prison story.
Redford plays three star General Eugene Irwin, a military man of legendary
proportions, but one has proved all too fallible. He's sent to prison
after defying a presidential command, something he well knows he shouldn't
have done, but felt compelled to - and did so heroically. But he has to
serve his time, which he vows to do.
His nemesis is Colonel Winter, the prison's warden (James Gandolfini),
a tyrant who'll do whatever it takes to keep order, even if it means having
a few convenient "accidents." Winter may be in charge of a military
prison, but he's never seen real military action.
Almost as soon as Irwin arrives at "the Last Castle," the other
inmates start working on the General, trying to enlist his help in cleaning
up what they correctly perceive as a corrupt system, but Irwin has had
a bellyfull of being in charge. Then he starts living the life there,
while Winter tries every trick in his book to break Irwin.
But you can't keep Robert Redford down - or we wouldn't have much of
a movie! So Winter and Irwin (to keep the plot moving forward) end up
trying to take each other down, with Irwin eventually mounting a scheme
to take over the prison.
This reviewer has an ingrained aversion to Robert Redford-directed movies
because they tend to be insufferably liberal and politically correct.
Fortunately, he didn't direct this one; he was just a hired hand - and
that's good because rather than being a typical left wing rant about everything
that's wrong with the military - or the penal system - this is instead
just a great yarn. It's a classic good versus evil story, with the roles
reversed so that the good guys are really what would normally be considered
the bad guys (convicts) and vice versa.
Despite his flesh-crawling liberalism, Redford is a very good actor and
he makes a terrific General Irwin, though I did think he was a tad informal
for a man steeped in military tradition. Gandolfini is also excellent
as the heavy handed warden and director Rod Lurie (who also wears his
liberalism on his sleeve - see the inverse reality of "The
Contender" for an example) does a nice job here of blending drama
and action without beating you over the head with his philosophy. It's
a nice change.
Dreamworks has done a pretty good job on this DVD, giving it a fairly
deluxe treatment that's kind of surprising given the movie's comparative
lack of success at the theatrical box office. They've put good effort
into ensuring that the movie itself, in its DVD incarnation, gives a good
home theater experience.
The picture, which is presented in an ultra wide 2.40:1 (anamorphic,
16x9 TV compatible) aspect ratio, is first rate for the most part, despite
a few noticeable flaws. Color (such as they are - this is a prison!) are
very good and the image (except for the aforementioned minor problems)
is sharp and crisp.
Dreamworks gives you audio choices of Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS, and
the sound quality is excellent on both. Some of the action scenes use
all the speakers very well, putting you in the action, though there's
little use of them for ambient sound during other sections of the film.
Extras include a selection of deleted scenes with optional commentary,
"Inside the Castle Walls," an HBO Special, and a commentary
track by director Rod Lurie. You also get the trailer.
The Last Castle, from Dreamworks Home Video
133 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.40:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital
5.1 and DTS audio
Starring Robert Redford, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, Clifton Collins
Produced by Robert Lawrence
Written by David Scarpa and Graham Yost, Directed by Rod Lurie
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