The Last Castle
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This movie wants to be The Bridge on the River Kwai.  I hesitate to mention The Last Castle in the same breath as The Bridge on the River Kwai since it isn't worthy of sharing the same shelf at Blockbuster but they have very similar plots.  In the earlier film, an accomplished soldier (Alec Guinness)  who is a natural leader of men is put in a prison camp run by just the opposite, a pencil-pusher (Sessue Hayakawa) who suffers from low self-esteem.  In The Bridge on the River Kwai, the result is an amazing film, at the center of which is the contest of wills between these two men.  The Last Castle attempts to create a similar situation between a famous general (Robert Redford) and the warden of the military prison (James Gandolfini) where Redford is sent after his Court Martial.  We see early on that the Warden is not a real soldier in the eyes of the General.  And just to make sure we get the idea, Gandolfini is seen listening to music by Salieri.  As the New York Times points out, ``The director Rod Lurie doesn't get around to having [Gandolfini] drive an Avis rental car or drink a Pepsi to establish his status, but he might as well."  The Warden tends to be a bit out of control and much like the Warden in The Shawshank Redemption, he gets ``rid" of troublemakers with the help of guards in the watchtowers.  Just as in The Bridge on the River Kwai, the Warden tells his prisoners when they arrive that they are no longer soldiers.  Redford, like Alec Guinness before him, restores the prisoners' self esteem by making them feel like soldiers again, while building resistance to the Warden.  Gandolfini responds by trying unsuccessfully to break Redford's will even sending him to the ''hole" as Guinness was.  Eventually, the Warden tries to compromise but this is seen as the weakness it is, and Redford and his ``soldiers" proceed to take over the prison.  Unfortunately, all this copying of a classic old movie into  a modern setting is wasted.  Redford and particularly Gandolfini are very good in their roles but unlike Guinness and Hayakawa there is never any tension in this new film about how things are going to turn out.  The Warden is too dumb and incompetent, and Redford is too smart and good.  It's amazing that the prisoners hadn't taken over the prison long before Redford arrived, considering the idiotic security at the prison.  A brief attempt is made to make Redford appear human by showing that he wasn't a very good father to his daughter (Robin Wright) but that lasts all of five minutes and then he returns to saintly status. Wright's appearance as Redford's daughter is all too brief.  She has been appearing briefly in a lot of movies lately (The Pledge, Unbreakable) but this is the briefest yet.  She seems to be one of those actors who started out great with lots of talent (The Princess Bride, The Playboys) and then just petered out.  It's always fun in these kind of movies to see what kind of Swiss Family Robinson type stuff they will put together to fight their better armed opponents.  In The Last Castle, the prisoners don't use the logs set in motion by a trip wire, that has been copied in innumerable films, but they do build a catapult.  Actually, not a catapult but a Trebuchet.  The Warden being well versed in military history, calls it by name when he sees it roll out.  On the other hand, I said, ``They must watch NOVA in prison."  I clearly remembered the NOVA program where they build a Trebuchet and the one in the movie looks just like it.  Anyway, this movie is a horrible mishmash.  Unless you want to feel patriotic after the recent events of September 11 (the American flag figures prominently in the plot), I would just rent The Bridge on the River Kwai, sit back at home and watch a real movie.  As Major Clipton says as the end of Kwai, ``Madness, madness."