Die letzte Festung (2001)

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Die letzte Festung: Directed by Rod Lurie. With Robert Redford, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, Steve Burton. A court-martialed General rallies together twelve hundred inmates to rise against a corrupt and sadistic warden.

“In an era when most new filmmakers seem less concerned with story than with figuring out new and creative ways to possibly damage their camera equipment, itu0026#39;s encouraging to see someone like Rod Lurie come along. A former film critic, Lurie has emerged in the last few years as a maker of old-fashioned u0026quot;good movies well madeu0026quot;. He impressed me last year with the political drama u0026quot;The Contenderu0026quot;, and this year he brings us u0026quot;The Last Castleu0026quot;, a prison picture that overcomes some dramatic potholes to provide a solid two hoursu0026#39; worth of entertainment.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThe castle in question here is a maximum security military prison, home to the armed forcesu0026#39; toughest offenders. The whole place is ruled by Col. Winter (James Gandolfini), a tinpot tyrant who delights in turning his prisoners against one another. Make them forget they are soldiers, make them forget they are MEN, and you will win…thatu0026#39;s Winteru0026#39;s philosophy. Then, a monkey wrench is thrown into the works, in the form of Gen. Eugene Irwin (Robert Redford), a much-decorated three-star general court-martialed for a battlefield infraction. Irwin immediately sees Winter for what he is, and as his weeks in the prison wear on, he begins to realize that he is surrounded by SOLDIERS, tough, competent, and ready to fight. All they need is a general to get behind…and a villain to rally against.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eu0026quot;The Last Castleu0026quot; is a character-driven piece, and is carried by the strengths of its performances. Robert Redford takes a character who is admittedly rather sketchily written and, through sheer force of his charisma and personality, turns him into someone quirky and specific. Irwin is more like the Sundance Kid than any character Redford has played in some time: a rebel battling against a system that has arrayed insurmountable odds against him. This time, however, Irwin is a product of the system, and he knows its rules. Redford conveys that wisdom with a bemused grin or a mere flex of his craggy but still handsome face. This, folks, is star power.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003enThe actors surrounding him put in equally fine work. James Gandolfini is miles away from u0026quot;The Sopranosu0026quot; as the despotic Col. Winter, and makes him a fine villain, loathsome yet pathetic and curiously affecting at the same time. Mark Ruffalo comfortably wears the role of the prison bookie, a cynic whose father was a Vietnam P.O.W. with Irwin, and Clifton Collins, so creepy and evil as the assassin Frankie Flowers in u0026quot;Trafficu0026quot;, turns in a drastically different turn here as a stuttering corporal who first recognizes Irwinu0026#39;s greatness.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eLurie helms this material with assured confidence. He gives the film a gritty, authentic look and feel, he knows how to recognize a dramatic moment and pay it off, and he handles the filmu0026#39;s quieter scenes and its boisterous action payoffs with equal elan. Any way you slice it, itu0026#39;s just good filmmaking.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThough David Scarpa and Graham Yost spike their screenplay with memorable moments and fine dialogue, they shoot themselves in the foot with third-act implausibilities (youu0026#39;ll find yourselves asking more than once, u0026quot;Now how did they manage to throw THAT together?u0026quot;) and an abrupt finale that leaves too many unanswered questions.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eStill, even with these problems, u0026quot;The Last Castleu0026quot; is a solid, rousing piece of mainstream entertainment. Itu0026#39;s well-made, it tells a good story without insulting your intelligence or your good taste, and it showcases some fine acting by veterans and newcomers alike. And I bet Lurie didnu0026#39;t even break any of his cameras. Iu0026#39;m sure Dreamworks appreciates that, if nothing else.”

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