ChildCare Action Project (CAP): Christian Analysis of American Culture


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Entertainment Media Analysis Report
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their parents and grandparents, in His name by His Word

The Last Castle (2001), R
Analysis Date: October 21, 2001
CAP Score: 59
CAP Influence Density: 1.74

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NOTE: If you do not want the plot, ending, or "secrets" of a movie spoiled for you, skip the Summary/Commentary. In any case, be sure to visit the Findings/Scoring section -- it is purely objective and is the heart of the CAP Entertainment Media Analysis Model applied to this movie.


If Scriptural references appear, the full text appears at the end of the Summary / Commentary likely using a mix of KJV and NIV.

THE LAST CASTLE (R) -- Finally, a prison movie with no homosexual rape or male nudity...If it were not for the saturation of foul language...

Distributed by: Dreamworks
Director(s): Rod Lurie
Producer(s): Robert Lawrence
Screenplay: David Scarpa, Graham Yost
Cinematography/Camera: Shelly Johnson
Music: Jerry Goldsmith

While definitely equivalent to R-rated movies in Wanton Violence/Crime (W) and Impudence/Hate (I), especially due to foul language, The Last Castle was equivalent to G-rated movies in Sex/Homosexuality (S) and PG in Drugs/Alcohol (D), Offense to God (O) and Murder/Suicide (M). Finally, a prison movie with no homosexual rape or male nudity. No nudity of any kind. Not even adults in underwear. If it were not for the saturation of foul language and some items of extreme violence, this movie might have been a good Saturday night popcorn flick for some.

This is a story of life in a military prison; of an uprising to overthrow an incompetent and cruel commander, Colonel Winter (James Gandolfini). Three-star General Eugene Irwin is bent on fixing that.

General Irwin was court marshaled for disobeying an executive order and received a ten year sentence. The courts claimed several men died as a direct result of Irwin's disobedience. Atypical of many prison/jail movies, Irwin admits his guilt. Upon his arrival, General Irwin promised that all he wanted was to serve his time then go home. But as "things" were discovered, Irwin changed his mind.

Colonel Winter, the prison commander or "warden" in the civilian world, is bent on strict discipline and brags of no attempts at escapes, no deaths and other accolades not possible by his predecessor who tried the psychologist's approach of behavior control and modification ... and men died, including guards. However, the end does not always justify the means. Winter's methods were brutal and demoralizing [2Tim. 3:1-5]. Maybe administration should be "brutal and demoralizing" to a point in prison but extremes, positive OR negative in any arena, are rarely effective in garnering compliance more than superficially and temporarily. Break the will, not the spirit.

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One of Winter's methods was the use of water canons. Another was the use of rubber bullets fired by sharpshooters at anyone who even slightly disobeyed orders or routine. At the sounding of a special horn, all men had to drop to the ground or be fired upon. One inmate, ex-Corporal Aguilar (Clifton Collins Jr.) did not drop tot he ground. And was killed. By a rubber bullet to his head. Intentionally.

"The Last Castle" is not the name of the prison. It is name is "The Castle." "The Last Castle" comes from the stone remnants of the previous building - a castle - left in the prison yard for various reasons. According to Winter, the inmates seemed to enjoy building a wall with the stones to emulate the original castle. One of the reasons for the stone remnants, conveniently, was for punishing Irwin. When Irwin disregarded one of Winter's orders, Winter ordered Irwin to be subjected to moving a great pile of the rocks from one place to another about 50 feet away ... then back. Each stone weighed about 25 pounds. Hundreds of them. Irwin succeeded. And won the respect of the other inmates, ex-soldiers all. Just like Irwin.

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The maybe-yes, maybe-no inmate was the resident bookie, ex-Lieutenant Yates (Mark Ruffalo). He played both sides and was the prison bookkeeper for bets. The prize for winning a bet was cigarettes. Yates ran the numbers for bets on everything, even on when Irwin would collapse during his stone-carrying punishment. It was not enough that Irwin had the respect of the men by his success at the rock pile. Irwin had his percentage of the winnings -- 36 bundles of cigarettes - distributed among the other inmates. Irwin didn't smoke.
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There were a number of additional colorful characters in The Last Castle. Each one who significantly contributed to the story was developed enough to make him an integral part of the plot rather than cardboard bodies to fill up the background. One of the colorful characters was a large man who, at the start, was arrogant and a bully until a smaller guy beat the crud out of him. Another colorful character was the long time friend of Irwin's and boss to Winter was General Wheeler (Delroy Lindo). General Wheeler knew Winter was up to something but appropriately looked the other way ... for a while.

One of the supporting cast members was a guy who looked like the "sarge" in Sargent, quite capable of glaring down any dissent or whipping any odd men into compliance. After the "Irwin boot camp", it turned out that he was just a big sweetie, capable of being as much a subordinate within a team as a leader of it. That defines a good leader -- a leader who knows when and how to be a good follower.

The automatic hero aura of Redford automatically led us to admiring Irwin even though he was an admitted and convicted criminal. Fortunately, Irwin's crime was not one of violence or sadism, but of having too much a mind of his own which turned sour. As a consequence of Irwin's free-thinking open mindedness in disobeying orders, men died (I believe eight). That the script made his crime one of "being human" tended to help us forgive Irwin and embrace his goal however violent and "anti-establishment" it was. That most inmates awed and bowed and scraped to Irwin also helped. That hundreds of inmates rallied behind Irwin by staging an uprising against the evil Colonel Winter Helped. That the inmates shoved their aggression in the face of rubber bullet barrages using cafeteria serving pan lids as shields helped -- until real ammunition was used.

Because of the violence [Ps. 11:5] and foul, sometimes vulgar language [Prov. 17:20]. the MPAA gave this movie an R rating. By the CAP analysis model The Last Castle earned a score equivalent to MPAA PG-13 movies. Hardcore PG-13 (59 in the 55 to 67 scoring cell boundaries earned by PG-13s), but PG-13 nonetheless. I guess the CAP model is useful in not only identifying the "R-13" movies of the MPAA PG-13 set but is useful on the flip side of that same coin.

Additional issues of concerns to parents might be the racial hatred, the lies, and the demonstration of an uprising. Whether just or not, oft times an uprising may embolden others to do likewise whether justified or not. The onscreen use of foul language sure emboldens others to do likewise, especially youth.

Please note the listing in the Findings/Scoring section before you decide whether this flick is fit for your family.


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  • 2Tim. 3:1 - 5 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God - having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
  • Ps. 11:5 The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates. [Soul: nephesh {neh'-fesh}; soul, self, life, creature, person. Since "soul" here is a human entity, this verse does NOT mean God hates the wicked and violent. It means the soul of the wicked and violent hates. God hates sin, not the sinner.]
  • Prov. 17:20 He that hath a froward heart findeth no good: and he that hath a perverse tongue falleth into mischief. [Froward: iqqesh {ik-kashe'}:twisted, distorted, crooked, perverse, perverted. Perverse: haphak {haw-fak'}: to turn, overthrow, overturn; obstinate in opposing the norm or the accepted. Tongue: lashown {law-shone'}: language. Sounds like they who would overthrow the norm to excuse filth in speech, doesn't it?]

    *******Food for Thought*******
  • 1 Cor. 15:33 (KJV) Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (NIV) Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.
  • Jude 4 For certain men* whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. [*men: anthropos {anth'-ro-pos}, generic, a human being, whether male or female]

    As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.

    FINDINGS / SCORING: The Last Castle (2001) CAP Thermometers

    NOTE: Multiple occurrences of each item described below may be likely, definitely when plural.

    Wanton Violence/Crime (W):
  • fighting
  • imagery of killing to control
  • prison life
  • threat to kidnap
  • control violence such as beating, water canon, etc.
  • aggressive physical brutality/assaults
  • much gunfire (with rubber bullets)
  • uprising violence, multiple episodes
  • many beatings

    Impudence/Hate (I)(1):
  • 38 uses of the most foul of the foul words
  • 39 uses of the three/four letter word vocabulary
  • vulgar gesture
  • massive tattoos
  • racial hatred
  • tattooing
  • daughter's insolence to father
  • planning subversion by force
  • lies

    Sex/Homosexuality (S):
  • vulgar anatomical reference
  • sex joke

    Drugs/Alcohol (D):
  • smoking, multiple

    Offense to God (O)(2):
  • the use of God's name in vain, once with the four letter expletive and four time without

    Murder/Suicide (M)(3):
  • murder to control disobedience
  • murder by chopper blades (gore not seen)
  • murder by multiple gunshots

    NOTE: The CAP Analysis Model makes no scoring allowances for trumped-up "messages" to excuse or for manufacturing of justification for aberrant behavior or imagery, or for camouflaging such ignominy with "redeeming" programming. Disguising sinful behavior in a theme plot does not excuse the sinful behavior of either the one who is drawing pleasure from the sinful display or the practitioners demonstrating the sinful behavior. This is NOT a movie review service. It is a movie analysis service to parents and grandparents to tell them the truth about movies using the Truth.

    "There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I applaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our five-year study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.

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    (1) As noted in CAP Special Report-001, "Investigation Area and Scoring Trend," of the six CAP Investigation Areas, Impudence/Hate was the strongest presence in all four movie classifications. It has a strong revelation about the entertainment media.

    (2) The use of the three/four letter word vocabulary without God's name in vain is incorporated into the Impudence/Hate Investigation Area. The use of God's name with or without the four letter expletive is incorporated into the Offense to God Investigation Area. There is no duplication.

    (3) Only portrayal of successful murder or suicide are incorporated into Murder/Suicide. Portrayal of attempts to commit murder or suicide and deaths by police action or war are incorporated into Wanton Violence/Crime.

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