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The Last Castle (R)
DreamWorks S.K.G.
Official Site
Director: Rod Lurie
Producer: Robert Lawrence
Written by: David Scarpa and Graham Yost
Cast: Robert Redford, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, Delroy Lindo

Rating: out of 5

THE LAST CASTLE could also be called THE LAST STRAIGHTFORWARD SOLDIER MOVIE. This epic tale of soldiers fallen from grace, redemption, and fighting the good fight for what’s right in the world is a far cry from movies such as THREE KINGS or the upcoming BLACKHAWK DOWN that live in the ethically gray zone of modern warfare and the political decisions behind it. Director Lurie instead takes us far from the battlefield to a military prison full of good soldiers who did bad things and must pay the price for their crimes. The warden (Gandolfini) treats them badly, so they turn to new inmate and former General Irwin (Redford) to set things right.

The film revolves around Redford, a tower of strength and subtlety in his role as the man “they should be naming bases after,” as Gandolfini’s Colonel Winter informs us just after the opening credits. It’s almost ridiculously easy to like Redford (the character name Irwin, spoken countless times during the film, fades immediately upon leaving—it’s Robert Redford leading the men, no matter what they call him), and even I couldn’t muster up enough cynicism to do otherwise. Gandolfini does a creditable job as the commander we all love to hate, pulling off annoying psychobabble dialogue without lapsing into cartoon villainy.

The rest of the cast do well in their two-dimensional soldier roles—variously, loyal but dumb, mean but loyal, and petty but loyal—while Mark Ruffalo doesn’t disappoint as the affable shyster who may or may not make good.

Sound cheesy? You’re right. It is, and no one who hates films espousing manly values and the honor of the American fighting man should see this film, because that’s all it’s about. For the rest of us, THE LAST CASTLE is an all-American feel-good movie that speaks to a country hungry for simple issues and knowable enemies. Let’s face it, this movie is fun. A love-letter to the US Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, THE LAST CASTLE is all about pride in what and who we are in the U.S. of A. It addresses no real issues and lets all of us forget for just a little while that the real American military has no such easy answers.

I can’t let the review end on such a downer note, however. THE LAST CASTLE may be strong enough to earn Redford an Oscar nomination. Take your buddies, settle in, and have a good ol’ time watching the General make things right.

—Reed Oliver

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

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