The tagline for “The Last Castle” is “no castle can have two kings.” As cheesy and usually off-track as these lines can be for movies, this one seems surprisingly appropriate. The movie is about power and respect and how two very different men go about earning or getting it in a dysfunctional prison system. One of these men is the warden the other a prisoner.
Colonel Winter (James Gandolfini) is the warden of a military prison. He believes obsessively in order and control. Winter, although he would never openly admit it, is ashamed of his rank and feels as though his superiors in the army are always looking down on him. Therefore, he gets a power trip off his rule over the prisoners. During a break in the prison yard, Winter puts out only one basketball, thus instigating a fight. During this time he says to one of his officers, “men are so easy to manipulate.”
General Irwin (Robert Redford) is a well-respected wartime hero who is transferred to Winter”s prison. It is not said, purposely, why he is being sent to prison, but it is mentioned by Winter right off that Irwin should have a base named after him and not a jail sentence. He admires Irwin, and yet he is threatened by him. This is exacerbated by the fact that every prisoner knows of and is in awe of the General”s presence in the prison. The prisoners hold him in much greater esteem than their warden.
The prisoners are excited to have Irwin in their midst for a variety of reasons, the most important being that they want him to help take down Winter, whose cruelty over the past few years has not gone unnoticed by anyone, and the number of “accidental” deaths keeps rising. So the power struggle ensues as well as a fight to see who the last man standing will be.
“The Last Castle” is a war movie. It may appear to be a rip-off of “Shawshank Redemption” and yet, even though there are a number of similarities, “Castle” resembles “Saving Private Ryan” in many ways more than any prison movie out there. All the ingredients of a good war movie are included, and with as much talk about rank, honor and the inner-soldier in every man, you might find yourself waiting for the big battle scene on the frontline, so to speak. Well, if you are that person, you won”t be disappointed because sure enough there is one!
It almost seems redundant to say that Redford was absolutely wonderful as General Irwin in this movie. His cool, calm manner that just oozes admiration was ever-present. However, none of this will really be new to anyone who has ever seen Redford in action before. The more surprising performance came from Gandolfini. With his success in “The Sopranos” and the praise he got for his work in “The Mexican,” it should not really be astonishing to anyone that he was amazing.
With so many actors these days taking the easy way out by always signing up for the same role movie after movie, it is refreshing to see someone push himself to his limit. Gandolfini is a very talented man to watch, and it is exciting to see him in such vastly different roles all the time and so brilliant in all of them. One could even go so far as to say that he certainly was the king in this “Castle.”