At a time when studios are pulling certain films lest they trouble viewers'
heightened sensitivities, THE LAST CASTLE is a perfect film for a time of
war. A wonderful and unabashedly patriotic drama, the movie, by director
Rod Lurie, who gave us one of last year's best films, THE CONTENDER, pits
two superlative actors, Robert Redford and James Gandolfini, in a battle of
wits and wills.
The story is set in a military prison where Gandolfini ("The Sopranos")
plays an anal retentive warden named Colonel Winter. Pseudo-polite and
sadistic, Colonel Winter loves cleaning the glass on his display case of
military artifacts almost as much as he loves watching his prisoners being
shot at for not following his orders quickly enough. The colonel, who has
spent his career behind a desk, has known only one enemy, the soldiers
unfortunate enough to have been incarcerated under his "care."
As the story opens, famous three-star general and former Vietnam POW General
Irwin (Redford) is being sent to the prison for ten years for disobeying an
order that got some of his men killed. He has only one goal, to serve his
time so that he go home and play chess with his grandson. A quiet and
unassuming man, he commands a room with the mere force of his presence.
Redford might not be the first actor you'd think of casting for this role,
but he delivers a powerful, understated performance that is dead-on. Not
one to look for a fight nor one to avoid it if necessary, the general ends
up being challenged unmercifully by the colonel. But it is the general's
concern for the abuse of the soldiers there that stirs him into action.
The movie is a little slow getting started as it lays the groundwork for the
troubles, but, once in gear, it flies, alternating scenes of psychological
warfare with physical battles as General Irwin forms an army of prisoners to
take on Colonel Winter. Essentially a two person drama, the movie does have
a good supporting cast, the best being Delroy Lindo, who plays the colonel's
From the cinematography to the set decoration, the production creates a
completely believable and intriguing film. Jerry Goldsmith's wonderfully
old-fashioned and dramatic music reminds one of something from a 1950's
As the suspense builds, you'll be on the edge of your seat. And the ending,
which involves the American flag, will have you wanting to stand up and
THE LAST CASTLE runs 2:02. It is rated R for "language and violence" and
would be acceptable for kids around 11 and up.
My son Jeffrey, age 12, who usually doesn't like serious movies, went wild
over this one, giving it *** 1/2. He thought it was dramatic, realistic and
extremely well made.
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes