Patriotic. Predictable. Schmaltzy.
If ever there was an appropriate film for people living under extraordinary circumstances, it is The Last Castle.
The film, starring Robert Redford and James Gandolfini, is not the usual fight between good and evil. It's a patriotic film, one that will appeal to many Americans under the present circumstances.
Still, it must be pointed out storyline of The Last Castle is predictable and schmaltzy -- in a good way.
Redford is three-star general Eugene Irwin, imprisoned after a court martial. He is sent to a military prison nicknamed the Castle, run by Col Winters (Gandolfini).
Their first meeting is interesting. Winters, like everyone else in the prison, is in awe of the general and his accomplishments. Irwin soon makes a disparaging comment about the Colonel's antique collection, drawing his ire.
To make matters worse, Winters is a no-nonsense guy. Under his regime, the prison has seen no escape attempts or fatalities. His tactics are nasty -- to say the least.
Soon, the inmates, who admire Irwin, approach him to do something about the prison conditions. But he refuses, preferring to do his time and go back home to his grandson.
But when stuttering young Marine Ramone Aguilar (Clifton Collins Jr from Traffic) is punished for saluting Irwin, he changes his mind. Irwin rallies the 'troops' with the mission of forcing Winters to resign.
If you've seen the trailers, there is no doubt where the story is headed. Yet The Last Castle is boosted by strong lead performances. Gandolfini's character is very much reminiscent of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. But while Nicholson was loud and arrogant, Gandolfini is restrained and collected.
Redford is his usual self. He makes every role seem simple, whether it's action or romance (The Horse Whisperer). The supporting cast led by Mark Ruffalo (You Can Count On Me) and Delroy Lindo is also quite good.
Director Rod Lurie is used to drawing powerful performances in a low-key manner. His previous film, The Contender, featured Joan Allen as a vice-presidential nominee under fire for her salacious romps in college. Allen was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her role.
In spite of its predictable nature, The Last Castle is fairly enjoyable due to its patriotic elements: the inmates' camaraderie, Irwin's leadership in adversity and the symbolism of the American flag.
Cast: Robert Redford, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, Delroy Lindo
Director: Rod Lurie
Screenplay: David Scarpa