The Last Castle
Though my brain is so full of useless information I can barely remember my name when I wake in the morning, I flinched in recognition when director Rod Lurie's name appeared on the screen. The stains from Lurie's bleeding heart still obscure my recollection of "The Contender", and the "The Last Castle" looked to be no different. Less than eager to sentence myself to another two-hour lecture, I made a break for the exit -- the theater doors, however, were already locked.
This is another one of those prisoner films like "The Shawshank Redemption" where the prisoners are the good guys. This is a military prison where 3-star General Irwin (Robert Redford) is incarcerated after he defies the orders of the President and gets a bunch of his men killed in the process. He does not deny that he committed a crime. The prison is run by the brutal Colonel Winter (James Gandolfini), who pretty much finds ways to kill the prisoners he doesn't like. The difference between these two guys is made clear right away: Irwin has been through war and has found his humanity while Winter has never seen combat and knows only rules and discipline.
In Lurie's ultra-liberal universe, prisons are places where guys who had a brief lapse in judgment go to be treated like dirt by captors who take pleasure from inflicting pain. Lurie makes virtually no attempt to clarify what got all these men into prison, but he works damn hard to make sure we see every transgression of the Colonel's. Ironically, Lurie is much like his own Colonel Winter in that he takes it upon himself to define a subject without having experiences that allow him to see it with any degree of objectivity. For instance, let's assume that Lurie's wife was an Air Force pilot and that one day a few officers decided to cut her into little pieces. Do you think Lurie's opinion of military prisoners would be any different? I do.
As I said, the prisoners here are the abused ones and General Irwin teaches them to be soldiers again and follow orders. He does this because he earns their respect by carrying a bunch of rocks across a yard. Next thing you know, Irwin, Yates (Mark Ruffalo), and a bunch of the other misfits are taking over the prison and teaching Winter a thing or two about what it means to be a real soldier and a real American. This is Hollywood liberalism at its worst -- so paper-thin that every political point is like watching a 10-foot tall stuffed Uncle Sam waving an American flag.
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