Last Orders Review
Jack Dodds (played by Michael Caine in his elder years and JJ Feild in his youth) was a local butcher who was always seen as a charismatic and valued member of his small community. However, Jack has recently passed away, and his closest drinking pals from the 'Coach & Horses' pub have decided to carry out his last wish and spread his ashes in Margate, the paradise in which Jack wished to retire. Lucky (Bob Hoskins) is perhaps Jack's closest friend, and spends his time gambling and studying the form. Vince (Ray Winstone), Jack's son, is a used-car dealer who has never seen eye to eye with his father. Lenny (David Hemmings), is a one-time boxer who always seems hell-bent on antagonising anyone in his path. Vic (Tom Courtenay), is an undertaker, and a calm and careful man whose task seems to be to keep the other three on the right track. As the foursome embark on their voyage through the country (and stop off at pubs on the way), the men recall their own memories of Jack, and what he meant to them. Jack's wife Amy (Helen Mirren) however, is on a journey of her own to visit their mentally handicapped daughter, someone that Jack would never regard as his own.
Last Orders is a road movie, but is more concerned with closure and redemption as opposed to discovery and enlightenment. The travellers are not seeking some 'mystical' rediscovery of their own lives, and the target destination is not a paradise that has never been previously travelled towards. In essence, it's an anti-road-movie; rather than youthful characters venturing out into the unknown, Last Orders almost comes to signify the characters in their older state, as if they have left the wild and are returning home to rest eternally. With regards to the film, Jack has died, and needs to be brought to rest. It's therefore up to his ageing friends to complete the journey for him. The novel of the same name that Last Orders is based on, has been translated almost word-for-word from page to screen by its director. The original novel was written by acclaimed author Graham Swift, who won the Booker prize for his efforts.
Last Orders is a film in which actions account for little, and characterisation accounts for most. We the audience feel that we know each of the central characters in an equal amount of familiarisation, and this helps integrate us with the social order of the film's characters. Last Orders clearly wishes its audience to feel as if they are travelling on the same journey its characters are, and we are therefore shown as much about them as possible in order for them to be endeared to our hearts.
Some directors it seems are unable to avoid painting England as a gloomy landscape, and yet Last Orders is slick in the hands of Fred Schepisi, a veteran helmer of adult drama and light Hollywood comedy. He knows how to make the locations suit the warmth of the story's tone, and he provides a touch of beauty to what is usually deemed drab settings, with such settings as motorways, fields and pubs. Much of this credit should also go to cinematographer Brian Tufano (who also worked on Trainspotting, Quadrophenia and Billy Elliot), as he confidently uses gloomy colour tones to the film's advantage. The performances in Last Orders are what turn the film from a lightweight adaptation into an underrated classic. It's fortunate that such big name British stars appear in the film, as they lend a touch of dramatic importance to the proceedings, and allow the audience to relate to the characters in an easier fashion. Out of the actors, it's hard to find a performer who outshines the rest. It's a very good team effort, and they all cancel each other out in terms of kudos.
The film didn't receive any Oscar nominations, and this is a crying shame, as it is probably the best British film of the last year. It doesn't pander to the gangster drama, and it isn't a romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant. Essentially, it's original and poignant, and very deserving of at least one viewing from every family. Certainly one film to renew your faith in British filmmaking.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1, the transfer is mostly very good, with few blemishes or digital artefacts. Metrodome aren't renowned for providing the ultimate in transfer quality, but Last Orders is given a fine picture presentation that suits the film admirably.
Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, the sound mix is obviously not very aggressive but does contain some decent surround elements, even if the rears are for the most part ignored. The dialogue for the film is recorded sharply, and the mix complements the film well.
Menu: A well designed menu that is based in a pub and contains many sound events from the film. It's well animated, and is a nice introductory atmosphere for the film.
Packaging: Presented in an amaray packaging with a decent cover artwork and a one page chapter insert.
Behind-The-Scenes: This is a ten-minute reel of behind-the-scenes footage from the film, and is interesting if slightly loose in a presentation sense.
Filmographies & Interviews: Filmographies are presented of the main cast and crew members, along with short promotional interviews. The interviews themselves are fairly informative, but are annoyingly framed at stretched anamorphic widescreen despite being presented in a fullscreen ratio.
Trailer: The trailer for the film is a suitable summary of Last Orders, and promotes the highlights of the film.
Trailer & Poster Evolution: A bizarre extra, this showcases the various design stages of the trailer and poster for the film.
Extract From Novel: A selection from Graham Swift's excellent original novel, presented as text on screen backed with promotional stills from the film.
Production Notes: Some good production notes are presented that provide a thorough insight into how the film came to be made. Presented as text-on-screen.
Graham Swift Biography: A very brief textual biography of author Graham Swift.
An excellent British film that is warm and endearing without any trace of Hollywood saccharine, Last Orders is recommended to anyone wishing to indulge in classic adult cinema. The DVD is average, with fine picture and sound quality and a strange assortment of extras.