September 10, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 7  

Front Page >> Arts & Entertainment > It's time to Order this flick right off the screen


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It's time to Order this flick right off the screen

The Order

Starring: Heath Ledger, Shannyn Sossamon, Benno Furmann
Directed by: Brian Helgeland

By Jeff Zon
Gazette Staff

Gazette file photo
HEATH MAY BE HOT, BUT THIS MOVIE IS NOT. Heath Ledger dons his priestly robes in The Order.


Once in a while a movie comes along that makes a strong statement; a movie that shakes and swirls the values inherent to society and inspires change; a movie that leaves the audience looking at themselves introspectively as they leave the theatre. There are movies portraying the questions that underlie life on Earth in a profound and original manner.

The Order, directed and produced by Brian Helgeland poses none of these questions, but rather leaves its viewers wondering: how did such a poorly written script ever slip through the cracks?

As the reel begins to spin, theatre patrons are graced with the handsome presence of Heath Ledger as he delivers the opening monologue. As fresh and mysterious as he attempts to sound in developing his character, he ends up confusing the audience with a slew of disconnected thoughts that leaves the audience wondering where the movie is going - a hint of things to come.

The plot continues to unfold and reveals that Mr. Ledger is actually Father Ledger, a young priest who represents the end of a long line of religious academics. Soon after his mentor, a fellow priest, is killed, he's contacted and sent to begin investigating the death. Upon his arrival home, he's visited by a woman who has just escaped from a mental institution, who he promptly invites to stay overnight without explanation.

Moving to Rome, Ledger's character continues the search for the cause of his friend's death. He's informed the killer is in fact a sin-eater, an autonomous supernatural being who can, when the church will not, absolve a person of their sins before death by purging them from their body and placing them in a piece of bread. The hungry sin-eater then eats the bread, absorbing the transgressions or the former host into his own body.

Curing sin through bread consumption? The plot of The Order may be a little hard to swallow with all of its attempts at mystic Biblical content, but perhaps the worst failure of this picture is the script itself. Whereas most movies strive to move forward with driving suspense and thrills, The Order prefers to dawdle, avoiding all sense of excitement. Plot points after the inciting death are almost nonexistent and the story careens off the rails of effective story building. The level of adrenaline pumping action is not unlike that of the three-and-a-half hour cultural thriller The Joy Luck Club.

Other elements of the film follow suit. The soundtrack, designed to complement what is a relatively dark film, doesn't fit. The mixture of classical music and modern electronica tends to confuse whatever emotion Helgeland is trying to create.

However, the setting and costumes deliver what may be the most enjoyable aspect of the film: the panoramic shots of glorious cathedrals and history-rich European mansions provide a gentle sense of awe where the religious dialogue falls short.

Without spoiling the movie (a task with which the movie itself requires no Gazette help) it's fair to state The Order ends with a predictable victory by the hero, a villain disposed of and a storybook walk into the sunset.

I suggest an alternate ending whereby instead of the hero, the audience walks into the sunset and out of the theatre. If only sin-eaters really existed, they would have to eat all the contributors to this film.



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