Combustible Celluloid
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With: Heath Ledger, Shannyn Sossamon, Benno Fürmann, Mark Addy, Peter Weller, Francesco Carnelutti
Written by: Brian Helgeland
Directed by: Brian Helgeland
MPAA Rating: R for violent images, sexuality and language
Running Time: 102
Date: 09/05/2003

The Order (2003)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Squid Sins

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After working together on A Knight's Tale (2001), Ledger teamed up once again with director Brian Helgeland and actress Shannyn Sossamon for this supernatural tale of religion.

Ledger plays a priest, Alex, who belongs to a special and dwindling order, the Carolingians; he's essentially a ghostbuster. His mentor, Father Dominic (Francesco Carnelutti) dies in Rome, so he goes there with the aid of his best friend Thomas (Mark Addy) -- the only other member of the order -- and pretty Mara (Shannyn Sossamon), who apparently once fell in love with Alex, tried to kill herself, and has escaped from an institution. The defrocked Dominic has been accused of suicide and thus refused last rites by the church, but Alex doesn't believe that and finds evidence of some kind of foul play.

He soon learns about the existence of a "sin eater," whose job is to personally take on all the sins of those who have been denied absolution by a legitimate priest. (The CGI "sins" look like squid for some reason.) Unfortunately, the sin eater (Benno F├╝rmann) is looking to retire and needs a replacement. Peter Weller co-stars as a weird, balding priest who is apparently next in line to become Pope.

The Order was not screened for critics, and those who paid to see it weighed in with almost universally negative reviews. Even Heath Ledger's devoted fans seem to hate it. And indeed, The Order is short on actual scares and special effects, some of the plot bits don't exactly make sense, and much of it is just plain loopy. However, the movie has lots of those quiet, spooky library scenes where the heroes pour through dusty tomes looking for clues. It's long on atmosphere and whispered moments of creepy discovery. It's also interesting to watch today, after Ledger's untimely demise. To be sure, it's impossible to watch it with the same eyes as a disgruntled critic out nine bucks back in 2003.

In 2010, Fox released a gorgeous Blu-Ray (and despite all the negative reviews, this movie does look good). It includes an old commentary track by director Helgeland, plus deleted scenes and a trailer.

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