The Last Station

Film, Drama
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The Last Station
Russia, 1910. In his old age, Leo Tolstoy has become so famous worldwide that the merest hint he’s about to pop his clogs sends newsreel cameras gathering in anticipation. The real story though, as this slightly fusty drama elaborates, is unfolding inside the Tolstoy household, where the octogenerian writer (Christopher Plummer, authentically beardy) finds himself in the centre of a dispute over the valuable publishing rights to ‘War and Peace’. The Tolstoyan political movement – an organisation espousing his ideas on communal property to combat social injustice – sense a major funding opportunity should Tolstoy sign his best-known book over to their leader Chertkov (Paul Giamatti), yet Tolstoy’s aristocratic wife Sofya (Helen Mirren), having delivered him 13 children, is determined to fight her corner to the bitter end.

Idealism versus family ties makes for a potentially juicy set-to, yet it’s the historical detail which keeps this adaptation of Jay Parini’s novel relatively intriguing, rather than merely stodgy. Writer-director Michael Hoffman is all reverence towards Tolstoy himself, but curiously supercilious towards the beliefs of the Tolstoyan movement, thus undermining the key subplot (eager young acolyte James McAvoy gets his dream job as the great man’s secretary, but must also spy on him) and unfairly loading the central conflict in favour of ferocious spouse Mirren. Her impressively projected performance becomes the dominating factor, causing Plummer to overdo it, and sidelining both the earnestly wet McAvoy and moustache-twirling Giamatti. Engaging performers all, but the movie’s superficial flummery is slightly exasperating when the true-life events would have provided an even richer palette of ideas.

By: Trevor Johnston


Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday February 19 2010
Duration: 112 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Michael Hoffman
Cast: James McAvoy
Helen Mirren
Christopher Plummer
Paul Giamatti

Average User Rating

3.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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  • 4 star:1
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  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
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"that person" below you's friend in Newcastle went to see it because he likes Helen Mirren. He texted me to say it should have been titled "The Last Resort" as he also thought it was dull. I only wish I'd thought of that one when I reviewed it. A 1-star turkey it remains.

This film’s a bit of a turkey. There are some great actors here, some great scenery, good costumes … but, strewth, it’s a boring film. There were nine of us in the cinema, and one walked out. I felt tempted to walk out several times, but kept reminding myself both Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren have been nominated for Oscars for their roles in this one, and it’d probably get better. Sorry if you’re reading this Christopher and Helen, but I think your nominations were to make up the numbers. . Avoid at all costs – unless there’s nothing else showing. Anywhere. In the world.

horribly sentimental and romantic film with symphonic overlay of music.Some decent acting some poor.Mirren spends the whole film repeating the same scene of angst again and again.The whole thing was okay but a bit daft and unrealistic

A competent period drama with a first rate cast. Its filmed with panache and I cried at the ending.