The Last Castle
is a 2001 action-drama film directed by Rod Lurie (the guy that did The Contender
) and starring Robert Redford and James Gandolfini.
Eugene Irwin (Redford), a highly decorated U.S. Army Lieutenant General, is court martialed. He is sent to a maximum security military prison, run by iron-fisted warden Colonel Winter (Gandolfini). Should one of the prisoners piss Winter off, say by saluting a prisoner who is of a higher rank than them (which is not allowed), he subjects them to abusive treatment, such as shooting them in the head with a rubber bullet. This has resulted in the deaths of several of the prisoners. Eugene is disgusted and the other prisoners are aware of Eugene's legendary prowess and look up to him with significant reverence, so he organizes the prisoners into a makeshift army. They plan to wrest the prison from Winter's control from within so that he will be removed as warden...
The film was shot at 103-year-old former Tennessee State Prison in Nashville; the same prison The Green Mile
was filmed at. Critical reception was mixed; while the acting and stuntwork are generally praised, an examination of the plot reveals Plot Holes
and Fridge Logic
This film provides examples of:
- Bittersweet Ending: The prisoners stage their riot and manage to successfully get Winter ousted as Warden. However, Irwin dies in the process.
- Big Scary Black Man: Sgt. Mc Laren, the chief enlisted guard at the prison.
- Fatal Family Photo: You just knew Irwin was gonna die when he took the photo of his kid into his pocket.
- Faux Affably Evil: Winter. He isn't fooling anybody.
- Foreshadowing: Dr. Lee Bernard mentions that a rubber bullet to the head can kill someone. This is what happens to Aguilar.
- Hellish Copter: The prisoners' Huey crashes after its wing rams one of the guard towers.
- Jerk Ass: Beaupre
- The Last Title: The title.
- MacGyvering: Making riot shields out of tables, slingshots with rubber hoses, Molotov Cocktails with plastic bottles, a grappling hook, wooden siege weapons, and a bazooka out of an old metal pipe and an oxygen tank.
- Plot Hole: The prisoners being able to manufacture the weapons and hide them under Winter's observation, including a 20-foot tall trebuchet.
- Prison Riot: One is organized in the climax.
- Punchclock Villain: Captain Peretz, Winter's second in command is technically an example. Although he does try to be fair and consistent in dealing with the prisoners he does look the other way at the corruption of his boss. He finally has enough of it by the end of the movie.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Irwin gives a BRUTAL one to Winter, and he doesn't even raise his voice.
- Redemption Equals Death: Irwin.
- Reverse Mole: Yates
- Semper Fi: Subverted with Aguilar.
- Show, Don't Tell: One of the main criticisms against the movie. See Plot Hole.
- Split Diopter
- Storming the Castle: A subversion. They're storming it from the inside.
- Strange Salute: Since the prisoners have all been court-martialed and discharged they are no longer serving members in any branch of the United State military and, as such, saluting one another is forbidden. The prisoners pay respect to each other by holding their hand up near their temple and then brushing the hand back through their hair to differentiate it from a proper military salute. They also devise alternate forms of address, based on common forms of address like "boss," to use in place of previous ranks.
- Thanatos Gambit: Irwin — although it seems it was unintentional.
- Villainous Breakdown: Col. Winter goes through this at the end, even though he had already put down Irwin's uprising. It results in Winter shooting Irwin.
- Wardens Are Evil: Warden Winter is very much this trope. Smug, domineering, willing and able to kill prisoners if they piss him off, and developing a vendetta against Irwin as the film goes on.
- What Are You in For?: Irwin asks the doctor why he is in prison. The doctor says he was busted for marijuana possession. Irwin points out that marijuana possession will get you discharged from the military but not normally earn you a stint in a maximum security military prison. The doctor agrees and starts to explain, but they are interrupted and the audience never does get to hear the full story.
- Window Pain: The trebuchet is used to put a rock with Aguilar's name on it through the warden's office window.