In the opening voice-over of Brian Helgeland’s “The Order,” the
ever-insightful Father Alex Bernier (Heath Ledger, “A Knight’s
Tale”) likens life itself to a riddle – confusing and unpredictable
in each and every turn it takes. Ironically, I left the theatre
with a strikingly similar thought in mind about the film I’d just
seen.

Kate Green
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
You have been weighed, you have been measured and you have been found wanting.

Advertisements and the film’s production notes slated “The
Order” to be a dark, tense tale of malevolence within a covert,
rogue body of Catholic priests. Literally, the film is dark: Roman
and Venetian backdrops evoke images of Medieval Europe; however, in
all other regards, the expectations are hardly fulfilled.

“The Order” was originally the brainchild of director Helgeland
(“A Knight’s Tale”), who researched thoroughly the sin-eating
priests of historical Europe. Supposedly, they were God by proxy,
inasmuch as they could absolve a person’s sins and save those
otherwise damned souls.

Helgeland’s effort evinces his knowledge for his subject and
attention to detail in portraying it, but it also lacks thrill and
any semblance of an interesting storyline – the cake onto which his
fancy icing should have gone.

Ledger’s Father Bernier is one of the remaining few Carolingians
– a traditional priestly order called to exorcising demons and evil
spirits. Upon the death of their leader, Bernier and his close
friend and colleague, Father Thomas Garrett (Mark Addy, “The Full
Monty”), begin an entrapping investigation of sin-eating priests
and their dark history.

One would think that a head-first plunge into the cultish
underworld of conjuring clergy would be enough to sustain an edgy
thriller. “The Order,” however, becomes much too sublime for its
own good and loses viewers in an onslaught of incoherent tangents
and needless philosophy.

Take, for example, Bernier’s relationship with the woman who
once attempted to kill him, Mara Sinclair (Shannyn Sossamon, “The
Rules of Attraction”). The two fall in love as Bernier involves
himself more and more in his investigation and loses faith in his
vocation and his life’s calling.

Sure, a love interest is a very logical reason for a priest to
reconsider his lifestyle, but the approach is too highfalutin.
Scenes are spent doting on the lovers’ comparison of their
relationship to a sunflower and on other thoughtful but irrelevant
abstractions like essential truth and beauty.

The suspense is lackluster enough to inspire yawns and frequent
glances at the watch. Couldn’t people’s sins be something more
visually interesting than a wispy, jellyfish-like haze? Who
would’ve thought that watching someone devour another’s
transgressions could be such an uninteresting and un-terrifying
experience?

Rating: 3 stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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