There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
The first rule for maintaining control of a Hollywood prison? Keep Robert Redford out. In 1980’s Brubaker, Redford stalked through a Southern penitentiary, a force of civic righteousness whose conduct demanded (and got) an onscreen ovation. In The Last Castle, Redford plays Gen. Irwin, a heroic former Vietnam POW busted from three-star rank after a court-martial for disobeying orders on a mission in Burundi. Irwin could have arranged an easier punishment, but he insists on doing penance at a military stockade with a population of thugs—including You Can Count on Me’s Mark Ruffalo as a bookie and snitch—who need only a veteran officer’s guidance to tap their soldierly nobility. Irwin quickly finds a cause: The warden, Col. Winter (James Gandolfini), is a Bach-loving sadist who enjoys watching the inmates fight among themselves—and occasionally orders a troublemaker murdered. After demonstrating his gallantry and determination—and earning his fellow prisoners’ requisite applause—Irwin demands Winter’s resignation. When he doesn’t get it, Irwin organizes a guerrilla action to seize the prison (which both he and Winter like to call a “castle”), thus forcing Gen. Wheeler (Delroy Lindo) to remove Winter. The ex-general is a chess player, and this part of the movie is a treat for strategy buffs. Irwin (or rather, director Rod Lurie and scripters David Scarpa and Graham Yost) has devised an effective—if perhaps overdramatic—insurrection. But the actions of hundreds are reduced to the conflict between Winter, who is unalloyed evil, and Irwin, who seems a little arrogant but deserves to be: He’s the closet thing to a saint West Point has ever produced. As in his previous films, The Contender and Deterrence, Lurie ends by going way too far. But this time, Redford’s grandiose star turn goes the distance with him. —Mark Jenkins