Last Orders (2001)

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Released 14-May-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Audio Commentary
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-The Age of Innocence
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 105:54
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Fred Schepisi
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Michael Caine
Helen Mirren
Bob Hoskins
Tom Courtenay
David Hemmings
Ray Winstone
JJ Field
Kelly Reilly
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Paul Grabowsky


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
German
Danish
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
Turkish
German Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    From the 1996 Booker Prize winning novel by Graham Swift, Australian director Fred Schepisi has crafted a touching, graceful, and quite moving masterpiece, on what was an incredibly small budget. So small in fact, you wonder just how he managed to do it. During the commentary track he actually makes mention of the budget, stating he was making a twenty-five million dollar film for only a third of the price. The budgetary constraints may have been tight, but we have surely not been short-changed in terms of quality.

    In what is really an ensemble piece featuring some of Britain's most accomplished acting talent, Last Orders tells the story of Jack Dodd (Michael Caine). Jack has just died, which might seem like an odd place to start, but the film is primarily driven by a well-handled series of flashback sequences. The film opens with his group of close friends gathering at the local watering hole, about to carry out Jack's last orders. He wanted his ashes scattered into the ocean from the end of the Margate pier, the place he hoped to retire with his wife Amy (Helen Mirren). Jack's life-long drinking pals gather around the bar. Vic (Tom Courtenay), Lucky Ray (Bob Hoskins), and Lenny (David Hemmings) are soon joined by Jack's son Vince (Ray Winstone). Vince owns the local car yard and provides the motor which will transport the four men from south London to Margate to carry out Jack's orders. The men set off, each lost with their own thoughts on Jack and what he meant to them, privately reassessing their friendship. Amy has decided not to undertake the trip, since this day is a Thursday and like every other Thursday for the last fifty years, she boards the bus and makes the long trip to visit her and Jack's mentally disabled daughter, June. She is lost in her own thoughts about Jack, carrying the extra burden of him failing to recognise and become involved with June from the day she was born, and placed in an institution. The others, meanwhile, are still travelling and still deep in thoughts about Jack. They all carry some sort of burden of their relationship with Jack, some more lasting and far deeper than others. They are all dealing with his passing in different ways and this causes some friction amongst the four as they travel the lonely road to Margate. But travel the road they will, as carrying out Jack's last orders seems to be just about the most important thing in the world to all of them at the moment. As the journey progresses Jack's friends begin to open up about what his passing has meant, and via a series of flashbacks we learn about the pivotal moments in their lives that they shared with him.

    With most of the film told in flashback, the story could easily become muddled, but the production design, and talents of the cast that play the roles of the young Jack (JJ Field) and Amy (Kelly Reilly), allow an easy transition. The younger cast members capture the roguishness of Michael Caine and the grace of Helen Mirren perfectly, so you are never left wondering what era we are in..

    "I get by with a little help from my friends", sang The Beatles and Joe Cocker, and indeed it is friendship which is the cornerstone of this film. The sort of friendship that exists between people, built up over such a long period of time, it becomes the very foundation of their lives. Friendships so strong you don't even need to mention it to each other, and the ending of that friendship will leave an indelible mark on your soul. A mark so deeply etched, it is far greater than anything you would have imagined.

    Last Orders is rich and intricate, yet at the same time, uncomplicated and unhurried in the detail descriptions of its characters. Despite the running time of only a little over one hundred minutes, you manage to build up such an appreciation and knowledge of all the characters' lives, you feel like you've known them for many years. It reflects life so tenderly and accurately, that we could so easily be watching a story about any of our families. These are unremarkable people, leading really quite unremarkable lives, but it is told with such poignancy and heart we can't help but get wrapped up in the story.

    This film comes highly recommended for anyone who values the friendship of others above all else, and those that appreciate a quality film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    For what was a low budget film, this is a very nice video transfer indeed. Presented in the original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1, it is also 16x9 enhanced.

    Most scenes exhibit a consistent high level of sharpness, though a couple are slightly softer than others. With much of the film told as a series of flashbacks over several eras such as the 1940s, 1950s, and 1970s, this may be intentional to aid in easily identifying the period. There are absolutely no problems with shadow detail, and grain is minimal. There is no low level noise. Colours are really quite magnificent, despite being set in the dull confines of England with its perpetually overcast skies. Reds and greens are solid and vibrant and beautifully bright. There are no problems with bleeding or over-saturation.

    There are no MPEG artefacts. The transfer is mostly free of any film-to-video artefacts, until one moment where some wild shimmer occurs on the roof of the camper van at 35:06. Film artefacts are mostly absent, though the occasional larger one does pop up. One example at 82:25 was the most noticeable.

    Plenty of subtitles are available. I sampled the English version during the commentary track and found them mostly accurate and well placed on screen.

    This is a single layered disc only, so there is no layer change to contend with.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are three audio soundtracks on this disc. There are two Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks for the film, being in English and German. They are joined by a Dolby Digital 2.0 commentary soundtrack. Despite being a drama film dominated by dialogue, there are a couple of quite solid and noisy action scenes during the World War II flashback sequences. Overall, this is a solid soundtrack with clear channel separation and excellent dialogue levels. There are no audio sync problems.

    The score is by well-known Australian composer Paul Grabowsky. It has his trademark jazz style scattered throughout it, but it is also subtle and delicate when needed. A highlight of the film for sure.

    There isn't a whole lot of surround channel use. It isn't really needed anyway. The subwoofer is used sparingly. Like the surround channels, it isn't really missed. It does spring into life during the World War II explosion scenes.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Dolby Digital Trailer - City

Audio Commentary - Fred Schepisi (Director)

    Not the most entertaining commentary around. Schepisi has a fairly dull, and monotone delivery. He does offer quite a bit of technical information, discussing which shots had CGI work done on them, the bits he wasn't happy with (he is particularly scornful of one very cheap-looking scene), and other casting and production issues. Screen specific, though he often labours on one point across several scenes. He does talk well into the end credits.

Theatrical Trailer

    A 2:10 minute trailer, that I would seriously avoid watching before the film, since it gives away two vital clues to the development of the plot. This is a story that needs to slowly unfold in front of you, and this trailer only hastens that experience. Presented in the original theatrical aspect of 2.35:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced.

Trailer

    A 2:15 minute trailer for the Martin Scorsese period piece, The Age Of Innocence. Presented in pan and scan 1.33:1 unfortunately.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There's not a whole lot of difference between the Region 4 and Region 1 discs. The local product picks up the additional German soundtrack, while the Region 1 disc has a couple of extra subtitles. They are otherwise identical. The real difference is between the Region 4 and Region 2 titles.

    When compared to the Region 2 disc, the Region 4 disc misses out on:

    Compared to the Region 4 disc, the Region 2 disc misses out on:

    An interesting comparison here and quite difficult to recommend one disc over the other. I'll suggest the extras, while very different on each disc, pretty much cancel each other out. I'll concede a draw and recommend you pick this up where you can get it the cheapest.

Summary

    Last Orders comes about as highly recommended as any film I have seen this year. Adaptations of prize-winning novels seldom shine to the extent this film does. It is a pure delight with the performances from the magnificent cast about as high-quality as you can get. They take this material and truly work magic on it. If the ending doesn't bring a lump to your throat or a tear to your eye then I don't know what will. Films like this are special and deserve to be fully appreciated by as many people as possible. It would rank as one of Fred Schepisi's finest works, and among Michael Caine's most touching roles.

    The video is superb. Despite the low budget of the film, it is vibrant and colourful when needed.

    The audio is functional. It really doesn't need to reach the upper echelons of demonstration tracks.

    The extras are somewhat lacking, with the commentary informative, but a little unexciting.

    Highly, highly recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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