The Plot: The Order, disappointingly, turned out to be not much more than a Heath Ledger vehicle, apparently targeted at Goth teenage girls with vaguely Euro pretensions. Without letting out any spoilers, trust me when I say that you’ll be disappointed if you expect anything like what the trailer portrays. The trailer says implies that the Vatican is “using a killer with supernatural powers to absolute control of an empire” and paints the movie as a fast-paced action/thriller church conspiracy film – which it isn’t. What is it? Part drama, part horror, very “moody,” totally boring.
The movie’s story line is atrocious and disconnected, with little to suggest that one scene even belongs in the same film as another. OK – here’s an example, spoiler warning given: those two little kids. What purpose do they serve, other than to look briefly CGI-scary and then disappear? None. They are hell-spawn, but we’ve got no idea why they’re around, where they came from, why they look like kids, what they want, or anything. Completely pointless and unrelated to everything. Bah.
The Acting: Well, Heath Ledger does a good soulful brooding disaffected priest, but takes it too far to the point where he’s soooo brooding that there’s no way to establish any rapport. “Mara,” played by Best Winona Ryder look-alike hopeful Shannyn Sossamon is as empty a character as has ever been seen on screen, from the incomprehensible back story to generally useless and annoying character traits (“I’m not brave enough to paint sunflowers”), this character sums up the entire movie. Stylish, moody, vacuous, boring. ZZZZZZzzzzzzz. I’m not sure if Sossamon is a really good actress, or a really bad actress.
The cast is rounded out by a bunch of competent B-list types, with the exception of Peter Weller, who plays another pointless character. I would’ve done anything to hear him say, at some point in the movie, “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me” in a good Robocop monotone. That could’ve made the whole thing worthwhile.
Special Effects: Lame. Bad CGI, complemented by cheap scare tactics like dogs leaping out of the shadows at unexpected moments, and other pointless things that are designed to make loud noises to keep everyone awake.
The Order is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec at an average of about 25 mbps. It’s dark, colors are muted and red- or black-shifted in the extreme, and grainy as hell. I guess the point is to accentuate the moodiness, but it just makes the whole thing murky and more sleep-inducing than you ever thought possible.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is a mixed bag. I’m not sure what sort of test rigs the engineers used, but they sure must’ve been loud, because its damn hard to hear anything that’s going on without the volume cranked. That annoying “Mara” character? I missed probably 70% of her dialog. So, Mara’s mumbling away, and all of sudden there’s the notorious “Dogs Leaping Out of Shadows While Barking” (see Special Effects above), and all of a sudden your neighbors are calling 911 and your ears are bleeding because its SO FREAKING LOUD. I would just like to know what the sound engineers are trying to achieve with terrible level balancing like this… dramatic effect? Keep the audience awake? Sell more speakers when they suddenly blow (BARK!! BARK!! BARK!!)??? I don’t know, but it’s annoying, and this is the worst example I’ve seen in a while.
For those who are interested, the mix is 5.1, although an anemic sample thereof. Surrounds are generally inactive, the one notable exception being any time a jet plane flies in off-screen – sounds great. Bass levels are better than some movies, in terms of not overpowering other sounds in action scenes, and so on. Other than that, its pretty mundane 5.1.
Director’s Commentary: Writer and director Brian Helgeland does an excellent commentary with great knowledge to share on the movie, the people involved, Rome, and so on. For instance, Helgeland notes the street in the background at the beginning of the 20th Century Fox logo animation and comments on its accuracy – that’s funny, and interesting. He also notes interesting facts such as (a) the Italian actor playing “Brother Dominic” is the actor that did all of the Italian voice overs for Marlon Brando, and (b) that the New York scenes were shot in Rome, aided with some digitally added English street signs, and a Lincoln Town Car. Now, if only Helgeland had bought the same dry wit and intelligent humour to the film!
Deleted Scenes, with Commentary: Questionable as to why some of these were deleted, actually. There’s maybe 10 minutes of footage in total, and some of it looks pretty integral to the story, like the dying child at the beginning. Anyway, interesting, in that unlike most films’ deleted scenes, these aren’t completely pointless fluff. Helgeland attributes most of their deletions to poor reactions at test screenings.
An interesting production, from most of the cast and crew of A Knight’s Tale. Unlike AKT, however, there’s no “wit” to the film, or sub-surface complexity: it’s exactly what it appears to be: an overly ethereal, plodding, post-gothic yawn-fest.
Parts of this review were written by Gino Sassani