Redford stars in stripes in new film 'The Last Castle'
The Last Castle
Starring: Robert Redford, James Gandolfini
MPAA Rating: R
Rating 3 stars
Coming at a time when the nation is at war and patriotic sensibilities
are at an all-time high, it seems coincidental that a movie like The Last
Castle -- starring Robert Redford and James Gandolfini -- opens nationwide
to dole out some flag-waving and military virtue.
Courtesy of Dreamworks Pictures
Robert Redford stars as a disgraced general in the new
film The Last Castle. Redford's character leads an army of imprisoned men
against an unscrupulous warden.
Directed by Rod Lurie, who last helmed the critically acclaimed The
Contender, this military prison drama purports that a castle can only have
The Castle in this case is a maximum-security prison, an unlikely stop
for decorated three-star General Irwin (Robert Redford).
Court-martialed, stripped of his rank and sentenced to prison, Irwin's
reputation and defiance evoke respect and then resentment and hostility
from Warden Colonel
Winter (Gandolfini), who runs the prison with an iron fist.
Slightly miscast in this role, Redford gives the impression that prison
is a resort of some kind he's having to endure for a few years.
Gandolfini is totally adrift as Winter, who has no clue on how to handle
In Gandolfini's defense, he brings a chilling element to the character
with his kill-'em-with-kindness smirk.
The tension begins when Winter personally visits with Irwin on arrival
to "the castle" and asks for an autograph. While out of the room, Winter
bad-mouthing his precious military memorabilia; Irwin condescendingly
points out that any man with such a collection has never set foot on a
battlefield, a comment that
brings Winter to a boil and quickly ends the charming hospitality session.
Winter takes his frustration out on the prison population by issuing
only one basketball on the prison yard, resulting in fisticuffs that ends
with one pugilist taking a rubber
bullet to the head.
After witnessing this, Irwin, who previously declared that he simply
wanted to do his time and go home, decides to challenge the system by helping
the other prisoners
erect a wall in the courtyard.
The feud between the big two is then fueled by the death of a likeable
slacker Irwin took under his wing. Irwin then makes a dramatic speech to
take over the prison to
oust Winter, who is a disgrace to the uniform. The irony here is obvious,
but the reason for Irwin's imprisonment is not. Equally unclear is how
the prisoners are able to
acquire the materials to overthrow authority.
The underlying premise here is that the ex-soldiers that call the castle
home have been told they are no longer soldiers, but given the opportunity
command, they can still fight a war.
Barring the overt use of clichés, Castle's saving grace comes
in the form of Delroy Lindo's portrayal of General Wheeler and Mark Ruffalo's
fallen pilot who act as the
realists who contrast Irwin's haughty view of the world. Equally entertaining
are the nameless prisoners who defy reason with their feats of bravery
and toughness. Their
collective effort alone will have audiences cheering them on.
Overall, this is an above-average flick that will garner comparisons
to the cinematic marvel The Shawshank Redemption. And although Castle isn't
as moving or
well-written as Redemption, it's enjoyable and won't be the waste of
greens many movies this year have been.