17 February 2010

Review: The Last Station

Genre: Drama

I have to say, I wasn't quite sure of what I was expecting of this film when I was purchasing my tickets at the electronic kiosk this past weekend. I knew, of course, that two of its prominent actors, save the seemingly forever over-glanced Mr. McAvoy, had been nominated for the golden man in their respective categories; however, knowing also the rather shoddy choices that the people behind that man can and do often make (see here for starters), I didn't put too much stock in the promise of those nominations. Rather, I think, if I had been putting stock into any part of this film that may have been knowable before seeing it, I put it rather in the promise of the actors themselves, whose work I know in other films has been quite good (see The Queen [2006] and - duh - Captain von Trapp [The Sound of Music, 1965]).

Perhaps it was this expectation that led me to the distinct feeling of disappointment, creeping upon me like a puce liquid tide, briny and cold like salted Russian fish, while I sat watching the film. It wasn't exactly the performances per se that were so disappointing; no, rather it seemed to be settings of the performances that in comparison, like poor settings for decent precious stones, dulled and awkwardly exaggerated the nuanced features that went into each rôle. No doubt, in film studies, this bastardizing setting is aptly called the director and screenwriter, Mr. Michael Hoffman, who attempts to salinize an already sensationalized minor stop in history as if attempting to impregnate an old ovary that was scraped almost inadvertently from the bottom of a barrel.

Are these overly harsh words that I post onto this film? Perhaps; the work as a melodrama isn't really all that bad - Mr. McAvoy particularly stood out well to me and the art direction was certainly embellished enough. Still, watching an otherwise nearly endless repetition of hollow trades of ambition among rather unimpressive and relatively 2-dimensional characters was just winnowing on the eye and on the ear. I longed for the fully mature version of such tugs-of-war-like antics, for the great The Lion in Winter (1968), in place of what can best be comparatively characterized as the blind and utterly squashable pupa The Last Station.

So, Dame Mirren, Mr. Plummer, congratulations on your nominations this year; but let's try to really do something, more than just flaccor-redemptive work, in our next project, shall we?

Grade: C; meh.

P. S. Good lord, casting director Leo Davis, what ever possessed you to think that Paul Giamatti was in any way the right man for the rôle of Vladmir Chertkov? It's not that I know very much about Chertkov, but obviously obviously - yes, two "obviously" - a Mr. Giamatti he was not....

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