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The Last CastleThe 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 Jr.
Produced by Robert Lawrence
Written by David Scarpa and Graham Yost, Directed by Rod Lurie


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Updated May 13, 2006