The Last Castle
The Last Castle rides high on a wave of American patriotism, respectful of military service and protocol, and primed to ignite anyone's passion for justice against corrupted ideals. This intense prison drama begins when a court-martialed three-star general (Robert Redford) is sentenced to military prison for defying a presidential command. The prison's warden (James Gandolfini) is a jealous martinet who's never seen combat, and when the jailed general seizes command of the prison to protest the warden's abuse of power, The Last Castle erupts toward a classic showdown between integrity and cowardice. Former critic and West Point graduate Rod Lurie ( The Contender) directs this intimate battle with manipulative skill, appealing more to emotions than intelligence, but his stellar cast keeps the action on track, and a potent script returns flag-waving to its rightful place of honor. --Jeff Shannon
It seems that thrillers these days--even good ones--are all about scene-chewing bad guys, cute retorts fit for the Dennis Miller show, and one big special effect to end the movie. Well, something like The Peacemaker, the first feature film from DreamWorks, puts the record straight. Here is an expertly paced thriller with a sensible villain, smart instead of cute dialogue, and a focus on action instead of special effects. It's not original, just solid. It's the second of these energetic and effective thrillers that writer Michael Schiffer (Crimson Tide) has penned. The White House Nuclear Smuggling Group tracks down 10 stolen nuclear bombs after a suspicious train wreck in Russia. The acting head of the department (Nicole Kidman) and her military field officer (George Clooney) are off to Europe to track down the bombs. Instead of a Gary Oldman-Bruce Dern madman, The Peacemaker's heavy is an unknown Romanian actor (Marcul Iures) playing a Bosnian rebel who works passionately and quietly. This may be a popcorn movie, but it uses the ripe emotions of the Bosnian War to create tension. This is the best film vehicle yet for the overwhelming charisma of George Clooney as a quick witted, generally warm Oliver North type who will seek deadly vengeance without pause. He's matched very well by the professional polish of Nicole Kidman who is showing great flexibility in dividing her roles between serious and fun fare. --Doug Thomas
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