Film Review: Prison escape proves to be an ordinary affair

In a castle there is a division of roles: The good guys stay on the inside and the bad guys stay on the outside. But what happens when the good guys are trying to escape the bad guys and they’re both on the inside? You wind up with “”The Last Castle,”” starring Robert Redford and James Gandolfini.

Redford plays General Irwin, a career army man who is sentenced to 10 years in military prison on the eve of his retirement. Irwin arrives at “”the Castle”” prepared to serve his sentence quietly, but upon arrival, he is confronted by the harsh rule of prison warden Colonel Winter (Gandolfini).

At first, Redford is skeptical about the other prisoners’ complaints that the brutality they live with goes far beyond the norm of other maximum-security establishments. However, after a few horrible acts of corporal punishment and a miss-aimed rubber bullet, Redford changes his mind and decides to lead his fellow inmates’ crusade to oust Gandolfini. Besides, what else has he got to do?

Redford is well-cast as the commanding Irwin, and not just because of his intense military presence. There is no one else in the cast that holds the same Hollywood stature as Redford — stature that seems necessary to play the general. As a result, due focus is not given to the rest of the cast.

Sadly, Gandolfini is misdirected as the tyrannical Winter. An actor with amazing capabilities, Gandolfini lacks the fluid delivery that would have made Winter a true terror. Instead, he appears uncomfortable in his military uniform and resorts to hand gestures that are reminiscent of a Tony Soprano persona.

Hidden behind the shadow of Redford and Gandolfini is a talented supporting cast. Clifton Collins Jr. plays the mentally challenged Aguilar, a character whose development greatly enhances the film. Similarly, Delroy Lindo’s character, the feisty General Wheeler, provides the film with a much needed attitude check.

Filmed in the historic Tennessee State Penitentiary, “”The Last Castle”” visually captures the rigid confinement of the prison and the subsequent robbery of self-worth that occurs within its walls. Director Rod Lurie does an excellent job contrasting the serenity of Winter’s office, complete with classical music, with the chaos of the prison yard.

Despite the film’s flaws, the scenes of the prisoners’ take-over are enjoyable, especially as the plot turns into one giant game of capture the flag. The catapult built by the prisoners is particularly entertaining, as are the impacts of a few expertly-aimed boulders.

The concept of “”The Last Castle”” is an interesting one, but the execution is nothing new. The residual effect is something much akin to a childhood sand castle: It’ll slowly crumble away and leave no trace.

Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$2505
$2500
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$2505
$2500
Contributed
Our Goal