The Order DVD Review
Reviewed by Peter West
DVD released by Fox Home Entertainment
Written and Directed by Brian Helgeland
2003, Region 1 (NTSC), 102 minutes, Rated R
DVD released on December 30th, 2003
Heath Ledger as Alex Bernier
Shannyn Sossamon as Mara Sinclair
Benno Fürmann as William Eden
Mark Addy as Thomas Garrett
Peter Weller as Driscoll
Francesco Carnelutti as Dominic
Mattia Sbragia as Apathetic Bishop
Mirko Casaburo as Little Boy
Giulia Lombardi as Little Girl
Richard Bremmer as Bookstore Owner
The Sin Eater: "If Hitler had one of these in the bunker, he would be sitting on a cloud now........"
When a excommunicated priest is found dead in Rome under mysterious circumstances, Father Alex Bernier (Heath Ledger) is asked by Cardinal Driscoll (Peter Weller) to investigate. Bernier as well as the deceased priest Father Dominic are part of a obscure order called the Carolingians, of which there are only two remaining members. Before leaving for the Vatican, Alex is reunited with Mara (Shannyn Sossamon), a troubled young lady who has her own personal demons and is obsessed with Father Alex. Alex finds outs that she has escaped from a mental hospital where she was confined after shooting Alex a year earlier. In spite of their past, Alex brings her to Rome and they meet up with the other remaining Carolingian, Father Garrett (Mark Addy).
Examining the body of Father Dominic, Alex notices strange markings on the dead priest's chest. Review of old church documents indicate this may be a sign of a mythical figure in the Catholic church know as a Sin Eater. The last known Sin Eater supposedly died a couple of hundred years ago, however being that Dominic could not receive absolution, the markings show that prior to his death Dominic was visited by one. The Sin Eater using a crucifix, salt and bread, draws the sins out of the sinner and eats them, thus rendering sinners eligible for entrance to Heaven.
Intrigue develops as Alex delves deeper into the darker side of faith, he is attacked by two children possessed by demons. Father Garrett is crucified in a cellar in the seedier part of Rome after they visit a mysterious hooded figure who foresees the coming of the "Black" Pope who will rule the world. Alex is tormented in his faith and feelings for the troubled Mara. After an encounter with the Sin Eater (Benno Fürmann), Alex finds there is more to the recent events than he has been led to believe and that his faith is about to be tested in a way like no-one before him.
The success of The Exorcist has prompted many films in the last thirty years or so focusing on the darker side of religion. This was a innovative new twist, though. This film has fact, and director Helgeland's imagination merged in what results as a well thought out story. However his good intentions in delivering a love story/thriller fall a little short in both areas. There is too much emphasizing in character development and not enough love or chills. In other words the history of the Sin Eater having no factual reference for the audience to have prior knowledge of, is explained in-depth, taking away valuable time which could have been better used. The very attractive Shannyn Sossamon is underused in her role as Heath Ledger's love interest. Very disappointing is the blending of the images so Shannyn's first nude scene is far less explicit than what I think the audience would have liked.
Brian Helgeland has a rich repertoire of good screenplays. From a humble beginning on the TV series "Friday the 13th" and the low budget 976-EVIL, his more recent works have included LA Confidential and Mystic River. He may be better off directing movies of that genre than a supernatural thriller. Helgeland does though get solid performances from the cast, and Heath Ledger is very credible in his portrayal of the conflicted priest. Peter Weller gives a good supporting performance as the Cardinal from New York with the secret agenda.
I really can't recommend the film as a strong buy, more a strong rent for those who are interest in thrillers with religious themes. I've probably seen this movie more in reviewing it than I would if I wasn't. It's a interesting film, that falls a bit short.
Video and Audio:
The Order has both Full Screen and 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen presentations. Filmed mostly on location in Rome the DVD has a fantastic clarity to it enhancing the beautiful visuals. Some of the film though, is dark with the abundance of nighttime scenes. Overall the DVD is what we would normally expect of a recent film, just about perfection!
There is a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack in English and Dolby Digital one in French. The soundtrack does not overwhelm the movie, it compliments it subtlety. Clear and crisp, once again what we would expect from recent films.
There is a interesting audio commentary from writer/director Brian Helgeland. Brian covers in great detail the entire production, he elaborates the research and legend used to invent the Sin Eater mythos. There are quite a few deleted scenes and a quick look at some dailies. Also included is the standard theatrical trailer. A nice blend of goodies!