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Featured Blu-ray Review: The Order

September 22nd, 2010

The Order - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

Heath Ledger burst onto the scene with 10 Things I Hate About You, which was not a huge hit, but he earned a lot of praise for his performance. But he was not able to find breakout success after that, at least not until Brokeback Mountain, and during this lull in his career, The Order earned the weakest reviews in her career, as well as the lowest box office total for one of his wide releases. Now seven years later, can it overcome its reputation? Or is it best forgotten.

The Movie

Heath Ledger stars as Alex Bernier, a member of an ancient, and dying, order of Catholic priests called the Carolingians. At the beginning of the film, his mentor, Father Dominic, dies under strange circumstances and Alex heads to Rome to investigate. Going with him are Father Thomas Garrett, the only other Carolingians priest around, and Mara Williams, a woman Alex performed an exorcism on and who shot him. (Along the way the two fell in love, but as a Catholic priest, they can be together. It's a complicated relationship.)

Once they get there, they find themselves in the middle of a papal conspiracy involving a Sin Eater. A Sin Eater is a person who, through magic, can absorb the sins of others, thus allowing them to enter heaven, but the Sin Eater has to live with the knowledge of all of the sins. This practice started with the Carolingians, and it appears Father Dominic used the services of one just before he died. Now the Catholic church as sent Cardinal Driscoll to Alex and Thomas and tells them to kill the Sin Eater, as he is a problem for the church. He, Cardinal Driscoll, has more important things to deal with. (It is said the Pope is dying, and Cardinal Driscoll is the lead contender to replace him.)

Finding the Sin Eater could be a difficult prospect, so Father Thomas calls in a favor from Chirac, the Black Pope, a cult figure with powers, but who also owes Father Thomas a favor. When they do find the Sin Eater, a.k.a., William Eden, he learns that Mr. Eden welcomes the prospect of dying, as he has become tired of holding onto the sins of others, but he wants Alex to take over for him.

But there are larger conspiracies at work than that.

This film was absolutely savaged by critics, and for good reason. It moves so slowly that to call it glacial is an understatement. The conspiracy at the heart of the movie in uninteresting, and the bursts of action that do occur do not fit organically within the rest of the movie. The shift in tone is too sudden and too severe.

Heath Ledger seems to be sleepwalking his way through the role, but I can't blame him given what he has to work with. Mark Addy is there in part to add some humor, but that doesn't work. The potential romance with Shannyn Sossamon also falls flat. All of these issue arise mainly from the script, as this movie has terrible dialogue.

"What is it that you want, Alex"
"I want to learn the truth."
"Truth? The terrible thing about searching for the truth is that sometimes you find it."

This isn't how people speak. This is how bad screenwriters write. That said, it was written, and directed, by Brian Helgeland, who won an Oscar for his work on L.A. Confidential and was nominated for another for Mystic River. However, he also won a Razzie for The Postman, so he's hit and miss. This is definitely a miss.

At its best, The Order is a mediocre religious thriller. But at its worse, it is a bore of the highest order filled with cliches. (They even have scary children in a movie, just to be there. They are not there to further the plot, but to just be scary.)

The Extras

I was not expecting a lot from this Blu-ray, as the movie was a critical and financial bomb. On the one hand, there are not a lot of extras with just an audio commentary track and some deleted scenes. On other other hand, the film looks and sounds a lot better than I was expecting. It's not reverence material; that is to say, I wouldn't use it to show off my home theater system, but the colors are strong, details are sharp, blacks are deep, etc. The surround sound speakers are not overworked, but they are used to provide some ambiance / directional sound.

The Verdict

The Order is a stunningly bad movie at times and it will test the patience of most audience members. The Blu-ray has very few extras, but looks and sounds better than I was expecting. For most people, it is completely skippable. Even if you are a fan of the three leads, check out A Knight's Tale instead, as it utilized the strengths of these actors a lot more.

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