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War hero Lieutenant-General Eugene Irwin (Robert Redford) is sentenced to a military prison under the command of Colonel Winter (James Gandolfini). Winter's initial admiration for his high-ranking prisoner is broken when he overhears Irwin dismissing him as an ineffectual soldier who has never seen a battlefield. A battle of wills ensues, with the sadistic Winter determined to crush Irwin's spirit in front of his fellow inmates. Although reluctant at first, Irwin agrees to lead a revolt against Winter's corrupt regime.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
The Last Castle is an absorbing character study compromised by an unnecessary and unconvincing diversion into action thriller territory in its final third. Until then we're treated to taut psychological warfare between a decorated general whose CV includes a POW stint in Hanoi and distinguished service in the Gulf War and a desk jockey whose collection of military memorabilia is as close as he's come to the battlefield. Redford and Gandolfini's performances are the highlight of this military drama that strongly establishes its physical environment and the rules under which its inhabitants live before opting for the easy path of an armed revolt finale. While the genuine article and the tin soldier are engaged in mind games The Last Castle is compelling and it's easy to overlook loose threads like Irwin's daughter (Robin Wright Penn) who shows up once during visiting hours and is never heard of again.

The action climax is exciting in isolation but you'll have to suspend all disbelief to not wonder how Irwin's boys managed to rustle up and conceal such an impressive armoury right under the noses of their military hosts. If the film itself is ultimately something of a letdown the packaging of this DVD is impressive. The 'Scope transfer is crystal clear, the soundtrack well separated and the selection of deleted scenes are more interesting than much of the filler that ends up in this special feature category. All the scenes included add to the experience and don't look like the dag ends from the trim bin.

Director Rod Lurie's audio commentary track explains in detail why these scenes were ultimately discarded and they're helpful for anyone interested in the process of editing discovering why some of the best footage shot doesn't make the final cut. Lurie's commentary track on the film itself is unusually honest and informative. He starts by saying 'I'll tell you what we did right and what we did wrong' and delivers on the promise over the next two hours. The 'making of' featurette is interesting enough but it looks and plays like just about every other 'behind the scenes' special that accompanies most DVD releases these days. That's because most of them double as half-hour 'specials' supplied for little or no fee to willing TV stations around the time of the film's release. In all, not a bad package, with Lurie's commentary alone making it worth a look.

Published September 5, 2002

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CAST: Robert Redford, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, Delroy Lindo, Steve Burton.


RUNNING TIME: 125 minutes

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary with director Rod Lurie; deleted scenes with optional commentary; trailer; Making of Featurette; language: English. Subtitles: English, Turkish, Hungarian, Romanian, Arabic, Czech, Greek.


DVD RELEASE: September 4, 2002

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