Movie Review by Susannah Macklin
Starring: Robert Redford, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, Clifton Collins Jr, Steve Burton
Director: Rod Lurie
US box office takings for this prison drama have been reflective of its premise – slow, tedious and dull. But don’t be put off by any synopsis you read, this is an excellent and entertaining movie.
Robert Redford heads up a superb cast as General Irwin, court-martialled and sentenced to serve time in a maximum-security military prison. As Irwin comes to term with his incarceration, he struggles to ignore his own personal demons and a barbaric prison system helmed by Colonel Winter (James Gandolfini – THE SOPRANOS). Megalomaniac warden Winter first admires the man who inspired his own military career but soon wants to bring him down to earth – with a bump. The inmates join Irwin in trying to focus their endless time and find something to believe in. They may have been stripped of their ranks and rights as soldiers, but Irwin wants to give them their own battle to fight.
If cinematic justice is done then this should go down as one of 2002s most inspiring and moving films. It has grit, determination and plenty of balls. Redford, aided by a fantastic support cast with great performances from fellow inmates Mark Ruffalo and Clifton Collins Jr, shows he hasn’t lost his ability to shine on screen, even if he has lost the power to pull in audiences. And having written the scripts for SPEED and MISSION TO MARS, screenwriter Graham Yost excels in his own personal redemption of SHAWSHANK proportions, with his brilliant characterisation and somewhat surprisingly coherent story of military milieu.
There’s little wrong with this film other than its failure for people to give it a chance amidst a Hollywood history of great prison dramas. However there’s more than enough room for this one in the line up and you don’t have to be an army fan or male, to like it. This is one movie that should be let off for crimes at the box office this season!