The Last Castle - 4K Ultra HD Blu-rayOverview -
James Gandolfini was white hot at the dawn of the 21st century, with The Sopranos. One of the films he starred in that was destined for TV syndication was Rod Lurie’s The Last Castle, a 2001 action-thriller loosely based upon the real-life atrocities committed at Fort Leavenworth. Robert Redford leads a talented cast in a slick but otherwise obtuse work that recalls other better prison break films. Kino Lorber has updated the 2001 thriller to 4K Ultra HD with a great transfer and a small selection of supplements, all ported over from Paramount’s own 2021 Blu-ray release of the film. Unless you’ve been begging for this title in 4K Ultra HD, this release is For Fans Only.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
Attempting to recall prison break movies like The Great Escape is already a pretty tall order, as that classic already had the perfect setup of good vs. evil and the spectacle to back it up. But The Last Castle wades in much murkier waters politically, and unfortunately, it doesn’t commit to much to strike that sense of hoorah heroism that pervades in other more notable works. It’s just left with a denouement that leaves the story tangled, and a classic Robert Redford performance that doesn’t match the material.
The Last Castle follows Eugene Irwin (Redford), a court-martialed Army General who has landed in The Castle, a maximum-security prison for disgraced members of the military. Irwin immediately butts heads with the boorish, autocratic warden of the prison, Colonel Winter (Gandolfini). When Irwin bears witness to the murder of a fellow inmate, he starts to realize this is the norm, and that the prison must be overthrown to unseat Colonel Winter from power. Soon, all the inmates are reporting like soldiers to Irwin as the imprisoned General hatches his plan for revolt.
For a character who purports to be an intellectual who’s smarter than the prison’s entire population, Gandolfini is not the right fit at all. His sweaty, angry, and irritable outlook runs up against Redford’s emotionally reserved General. You’d think this would cause central conflict, but it doesn’t. It only sinks underneath the message of the movie, which is already obfuscated by a slow pace and lack of general energy. Because the film fails to commit completely to any of its ideas, we’re left with a lukewarm thriller easily digested between commercial breaks than in one unbroken sitting.
What I find to be the most disappointing part of the film is its extended action climax, one that hasn’t been earned or even built up naturally in the preceding scenes. Prisoners pull homemade weapons out of nowhere and even launch a makeshift trebuchet. How did they hide these things? Not sure, but I think the powers that be thought it would work better as a surprise, though not showing the work makes everything feel weightless.
All in all, The Last Castle is an overlong drama in search of a higher purpose. Part of me thinks if they dug into the pulp of a prison break, that the film itself could be an apolitical, nasty little slice of work. But here, it’s a sanitized attempt at questioning those who lead us.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-rays
It’s time to storm The Last Castle in 4K Ultra HD with a two-disc – BD-100 for the 4K and BD-50 for the Blu-ray – set that comes housed in a standard black 4K Blu-ray case with o-card slipcover going over it. The sleeve in the case is reversible as well. Both discs boot up to standard menu screens with option to play the film, set up audio, browse bonus features and select chapters.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings The Last Castle to 4K Ultra HD with an HEVC-encoded 2160p presentation aided by Dolby Vision HDR and sourced from a 4K scan of the 35mm original camera negative. This looks to be sourced from the same 4K scan used on Paramount’s own 2021 Blu-ray release of the film, just with a Dolby Vision HDR grade added and in higher resolution. The film itself has a very washed-out, grey look that doesn’t immediately lend itself to 4K format, though I could tell black levels have been slightly enhanced and are remarkably sturdy in both exteriors and interiors. The transfer really only wows in close-ups and shadows, though it’s very hard for me to recommend this presentation over the already great 2021 Blu-ray. If you’re looking for some better refinement in the highlights, then this release is more than worth the upgrade. The desaturated look of the film is handled capably by the encode and offers a very high bitrate throughout, and I didn’t notice any damage to the source, as it looks to be in terrific condition. There’s no DNR or smoothing to note, either.
The Last Castle is presented with two audio options: a lossless 2.0 track and a 5.1 surround track in the DTS-HD MA codec. For the purpose of this review, I played the 5.1 surround track and found many moments where Jerry Goldsmith’s powerful score lending terrific weight to the proceedings. Surround channels are used mainly during the action sequences when the soundscape really opens up with terrific sound effects. Bass is appreciable and the source is in terrific condition with no damage to note.
Kino Lorber has ported over all the supplements from Paramount’s 2021 Blu-ray release and has added nothing else. That isn’t to say that the supplement package here isn’t nice already, but it’s a bit disappointing for this film to gain an upgrade with no new supplements produced. The commentary is nicely detailed by Rod Lurie and adds plenty of context to the production, including his influences, various difficulties in specific scenes, and how they constructed the sets.
4K UHD Disc
- Audio commentary by director Rod Lurie
- Audio commentary by director Rod Lurie
- Rod Lurie on The Last Castle: Featurette (HD 10:35)
- 9 Deleted Scenes with Optional Audio Commentaries by Rod Lurie (SD 14:29)
- HBO First Look - Inside the Walls of The Last Castle: Featurette (SD 15:01)
- A Hero's Farewell - A Discussion on the Alternate Ending: Featurette (HD 2:45)
- Theatrical Trailer (SD 2:24)
Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings Rod Lurie’s The Last Castle to 4K Ultra HD with a two-disc 4K Blu-ray release that offers a great new transfer of the film. While it’s not the kind of night-and-day difference you’d expect from an upgrade of Paramount’s 2021 Blu-ray release of the film, it still offers the best the film has ever looked at home. The supplements package consists of everything included on the previous Blu-ray and nothing new. Newcomers might want to watch the film before a blind buy as this release is ultimately For Fans Only.
Order Your Copy of The Last Castle on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Edward Zwick's Glory 35th Anniversary 4K UHD Limited Edition SteelBook Arrives on June 4By:
Turbine Reissues 3-Disc Pitch Black Director's Cut 4K UHD Set with Their World-Exclusive Atmos Audio Feb 29thBy:
Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West Coming to 4K UHD May 14By:
Brandon Lee's "The Crow" Ascends to 4K Ultra HD May 7thBy: