a critiQal film review The Order (2003)

Plot: When his mentor Father Dominic (Carnelutti) dies under mysterious circumstances in Rome, Alex (Ledger) goes to investigate. He discovers Dominic had a visit from a "Sin-Eater" (Furmann) - an ancient being who can absorb a person's sins before they die, sending them to Heaven with a clean conscience. When Alex comes face to face with this Sin-Eater, he must decide his own fate - as well as the fate of those he cares for most.

536 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 40s)
  • ...a plodding pace and incompetent plot execution help make this Ledger vehicle a must-miss.

The first time I saw a preview for The Order, I mistook it as a remake of the Jean-Claude Van Damme film, The Order (2001). On closer inspection, it looked to be a religious film along the lines of Stigmata or The Order (2001). The preview interested me, so I decided to check it out when it came to DVD.

The characters in the film were decently acted, although the muddy plot detracted from the actors’ performances. Heath Ledger (of A Knight’s Tale) was the most obvious sufferer from this plot confusion. His performance is supposed to showcase his character’s doubts and fears about his wavering faith.

But, he is unable to convey the emotions he’s going through without a clear plot to back it up, so the viewer may be left unclear about which direction he’s leaning towards. When he does decide which way to go, it’s no longer important to the viewer, since the viewer has given up trying to find some kind of cohesion in the plot. The other characters all tend to fall in the murkiness, and the viewer won’t even really pay attention to their performances at all.

The Order does have a good premise: the promise of eternal life is both good and bad, since you will have to watch all those you care about die. But more importantly for a priest, it contradicts everything you’ve been taught to believe, and you must sacrifice your beliefs before you can commit to this eternal life.

This interesting premise is executed in extraordinarily sloppy fashion in The Order. The plot twists are easy to guess long before they happen, and the film never really builds up enough audience interest to make it worthwhile. The pace is so slow that the viewer will wait the entire movie for it to pick up, but by the time it finally does, it’s way too late to impress anyone.

It’s like a car stuck in second gear on the highway. You know that if you can up shift you’ll get some real juice out of the engine but, no matter how hard you try, the car stays stuck in second gear.

The special effects are well done, and are mostly subdued, as the director of The Order was obviously trying for a darker tone to the film. The most impressive special effects occurs when Alex (Ledger’s character) is trying to fight off a couple of demon-like children (it’s too far into the movie at that point to care why). He ends up banishing them, and they fly apart in clouds of birds. Very well done but, unfortunately, this movie can’t rely on effects alone to capture it’s audience.

All in all, there isn’t much about The Order to recommend it. It’s slow-as-death pace and it’s incompetent plot execution affect the rest of the film so much it’s not worth watching. The whole purpose of making a film is to suspend the viewer’s disbelief. If the viewer is so captivated that they stop thinking “it’s only a movie,” then the movie has achieved it’s goal. The Order doesn’t ever let you forget that it’s only a movie.

So, what’s The Order of the day? Don’t bother with this one.

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