The Last Castle

Year: 2001
Director: Rod Lurie
Cast: Robert Redford, James Gandolfini, Delroy Lindo
In The Contender, former film journalist Rod Lurie made one of the best political dramas of recent years by portraying a frank look at American political power plays. Despite the President's climactic speech defending freedom and liberty, it wasn't burdened with any of the God-bless-America syrup that spoils most large-scale American films.

The Last Castle goes to the opposite extreme, and while it's a good story, you have to wallow through so much 'military code of honour' and 'home of the brave' crap it's almost not worth it. A high ranking General is sent to a military prison where he proceeds to whip up the inmates' former pride in themselves (high concept; once you've served your country you're always a soldier).

A battle of wills ensues between the General and the warden (Gandolfini, in a role of low-key villainy that's the highlight of the film). Its heart's in the right place, but far too much head-held-high symbolism for the American military being a legion of honour and not a lackey for George W Bush's oil aspirations.

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