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DVD Review: The Last Station

June 22, 2010

The Last Station – An Sony Pictures Classics’ Release

http://www.sonyclassics.com/thelaststation/

DVD Release Date: June 22nd, 2010

Rated 14A for nudity and sexual content

Running time: 112 minutes

Michael Hoffman (dir.)

Michael Hoffman (writer)

Jay Parini (novel)

Sergei Yevtushenko (music)

James McAvoy as Valentin Bulgakov

Helen Mirren as Sofya Tolstaya

Christopher Plummer as Leo Tolstoy

Paul Giamatti as Vladimir Chertkov

Our reviews below:

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The Last Station DVD Review By John C.

*** (out of 4)

Seen through the eyes of his assistant, Valentin (James McAvoy), The Last Station is a bio-pic based on the final months of Russian author Leo Tolstoy’s life.  Consumed by the “Tolstoyan” movement followed strictly by his publisher, Tolstoy was drawn apart from his wife in his final days, having constant disagreements over who his estate, including his many works, should be left to in his will – his family, or his public.

What makes The Last Station worth seeing, despite it perhaps being a little too long, are the wonderful lead performances from Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren.  When watched as a showcase for two veteran actors at the top of their game, this is a satisfying dramatic telling of Tolstoy’s final few years, that will be particularly enjoyed by fans of historical dramas.

The DVD includes commentary tracks with Plummer, Mirren, and director Michael Hoffman, as well as outtakes and deleted scenes.  The Blu-Ray comes equipped with BDLive.

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The Last Station DVD Review By Erin V.

***1/2 (out of 4)

The Last Station is based on the last year of Leo Tolstoy’s life, and is adapted from Jay Parini’s novel on these events.  It is told though the eyes of Valentine Bulgakov (James McAvoy), Tolstoy’s young secretary, as an outside view to the last year of Tolstoy’s life, and how it’s affecting the people around him.

The BluRay disc includes 7 deleted scenes, outtakes, as well as commentaries from Helen Mirren, Christopher Plummer, and dir. Michael Hoffman.  Another interesting tie-in to the film, is the book of the shooting script [link], sold seperately.

The Last Station is definitely worth seeing for it’s wonderful acting by Helen Mirren, Christopher Plummer, and the rest of the supporting cast.  It is a good film – well staged/filmed, and pleasant enough to watch.  The movie is 113 minutes long, but although slower paced, didn’t bore me.  With a well written script and the acting, this is one that is worth checking out for those who like historical period type-pieces.  I liked this one.

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The Last Station DVD Review By Nicole

*** (out of 4)

The Last Station is a slow-moving film about Leo Tolstoy’s last days.  Based on the bestselling novel of the same name, the movie shows Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) as a sort of hippy, living simply on a commune in a natural setting.  Tolstoy, knowing he is getting on in years, decides to leave his literary copyright to the public domain, as opposed to his family.  His wife, Countess Sofya (Helen Mirren) is not pleased about this and will fight for the copyright to remain in the family.  What is unique about this film is that much of it is seen through the eyes of Tolstoy’s young secretary, Valentin Bulgakov (James McAvoy).  A romance between Tolstoy’s daughter Masha (Kerry Condon), a girl ahead of her time, and Valentine, play a key part in the film, as does Tolstoy’s friend Chertkov (Paul Giamatti).

While The Last Station is a bit long (I found my attention wandering at times), the film is still engaging enough to recommend.  The acting is decent, and the costumes and scenery is really nice to see.  (Check this one out if the story interests you.

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The Last Station DVD Review By Maureen

*** (out of 4)

The Last Station is a well-made biopic about the final chapter of Russian writer Leo Tolstoy’s life.  Based on the novel The Last Station by Jay Parini, the story focuses on the strained relationship between Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) and his wife of 48 years, Countess Sofya Tolstoy (Helen Mirren).  The source of their conflict is Tolstoy’s wish to give copyright of his works to the people of Russia.  His wife wants the copyright and royalities to remain with the Tolstoy estate.  Running interference are Tolstoy’s friend and publisher, Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti) and Tolstoy’s idealistic 23-year old secretary Valentin Bulgakov (James McAvoy).

As a period piece The Last Station is nicely done.  The setting and costuming  are convincing.  What makes this movie so watchable are the excellent performances by all the actors particularly veterans Plummer and Mirren.  It’s obvious why the pair received Oscar nominations for their roles as the at odds but still in love elderly couple.

While the movie is a little slow-paced at times, viewers who enjoy historical films will appreciate this interesting glimpse in Leo Tolstoy’s life.  Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren fans will especially appreciate The Last Station.

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The Last Station DVD Review By Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

The Last Station dramatizes the final days of Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer), living on a country estate with his wife Countess Sasha (Helen Mirren) and family.  As the film opens, we meet Chertkov (Paul Giamatti), the pompous celibate* leader of the cult of “Tolstoyans”, hiring the like-minded young Valentin (James McAvoy) as Tolstoy’s personal secretary.  Valentin is actually meant to serve as an informant for Chertkov, who hopes to convince Tolstoy to sign over his legacy to the Russian people, keeping it out of Sasha’s “acquisitive” hands.  Valentin finds that Tolstoy himself is far too pragmatic and fond of life’s pleasures to live up to his own ideals, and despite their stormy relationship there is still great love between Tolstoy and his wife and collaborator of over forty years. Moreover, though Valentin is expected to live a monastic life in a commune devoted to the Tolstoyan ideal of renunciation of personal propety, his own celibacy soon falls prey to the charms of the comely free-spirited Masha (Kerry Condon).  Valentin is thus torn between real human feelings and his loyalty to Chertkov’s interests, as Tolstoy spends his final days at the eponymous location, a small train station in the south of Russia.

Based on the novel by Jay Parini, The Last Station has a fine script by director Michael Hoffman that would hold up well on the stage. The beautiful locations with meticulous attention to period and a good musical score by St Petersburg composer Sergei Yevtushenko make the Russian-German co-production all the more pleasurable, not to mention the brilliant cast, richly deserving of Oscar nominations for the leads. As a bonus, thanks to paparazzi constantly depicted around the Tolstoy home and in the station death watch, we are treated to archival clips of the real characters over the closing credits.

*an epithet used by Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces

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Consensus: Although it is perhaps a little long, The Last Station is worth seeing for the wonderful lead performances by Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren, and offers an interesting look into the final few months of Leo Tolstoy’s life. ***1/4 (Out of 4)

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