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Last Orders [2001] [DVD]
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on 20 November 2011
Curiously fantastical film. The east end of London has been transformed by immigration. This film is deliberately phoney; virtually all the characters are shown as white - honest cockney caricatures, spending much of their time in almost-empty pubs joking about whose round it is. The Lancs actor is the exception, and is duly given hardly any lines. There are wartime scenes with a young actor pretending to be Caine, and scene of hop-picking in Kent. The scenery is minimal - it's quite an appropriate match, really, the cut-down scenesetting with the cut-down perspective of the film. There's a wartime scene celebrating our plucky country helping Stalin with his mass-murders. Curious obsolete trash which indirectly reveals how powerless actors are to select their material.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 August 2015
Aussie Fred Schepisi’s 2001 translation of Graham Swift’s (superior) novel to the big screen is a solid, sometimes moving, if unspectacular, piece of cinema and, with its cast of 'ageing Brit greats’ would probably qualify as part of the seemingly ever-more-popular 'silver cinema’ genre. Last Orders’ low-key tale of four friends taking a trip to Margate to scatter the ashes of Michael Caine’s recently deceased butcher, Jack Dodds, provides much poignant reflection and moments of nostalgia, as well as an element of mystery as Schepisi subtly reveals to us the quartet’s past histories and secrets, underpinning the film’s themes of family loyalty and friendship.

For me, the film (in particular) provides a reminder of just how much missed is the great Bob Hoskins, here as Jack’s war-time buddy (and man with an eye for the gee-gees), Ray, and what an underused (cinematic) talent Tom Courtney has proved, here as undertaker, Vic, – both actors delivering outstanding performances – whilst each of David Hemmings as the grudge-bearing Lenny and Ray Winstone as Jack’s wide-boy, car dealer son, Vince, also impress. Schepisi uses flashback, not entirely successfully, to chart the quartet’s (and the always impressive Helen Mirren’s devoted wife to Jack, Amy’s) history, but, for me at least, the film is most successful (primarily by dint of the quality of the acting on show) in the modern setting as frictions simmer and past deceptions are the subject for regret.

Looks-wise, Schepisi’s film is relatively conventional, but Brian Tufano’s cinematography does provide some spectacular and evocative moments, as the quartet’s journey takes in the Rochester War Memorial and Canterbury Cathedral, as well as capturing the claustrophobic interior of Vince’s Merc very skilfully for the extended dialogue scenes. The choice of Caine and Winstone as 'father and son’ is also very apt – both suiting the (admittedly rather overdone) 'cor blimey’ nature of the script. There is also a nice touch (and Winstone-reference) as the 'Nil By Mouth’ sign is displayed behind Jack’s hospital bed. For me, therefore, a solid watch, meriting four stars due to the (mature) acting on show.
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on 1 June 2016
I have no idea why this film has not become massively well-known and revered. I saw it cheap in a shop and saw that we had Michael Caine, Helen Mirren, Bob Hoskins, Tom Courtenay, David Hemmings and Ray Winstone.

The scene is that Michael Caine's character has died and his "Last Orders" (obviously a play on words for drinking buddies) are about the scattering of his ashes. Through flashbacks and present day we watch unfold a whole number of secrets, different expressions of love - between adults, siblings, parents and their children, memories, highs, lows, disappointments, lifelong friendships, and all against a backdrop of devotion and respect and love in the pasts of the main characters.

As this happens we find out all sorts of hidden truths about and within the families and friends involved. These gradually form such stories of positivity and complete love and respect that the result is full of wonderful surprises, depth and all wonderfully moving.

By the end I had gone through so many emotions, and also was extremely uplifted, because of the skill and subtlety of the storytelling and the brilliant performances by all of the acting heavyweights present.

I cannot wait to watch this again and to share it with others, my partner in particular. It is amazing that I can put this on such a high pedestal when I didn't shed a tear watching it, since that is usually a sign that I have seen a memorable and moving masterpiece. Without the tears I still can say that it is one of the most sensitive and nuanced films I have ever watched - in a "British" way - so it belongs in the illustrious company of Dead Man's Shoes, Mrs Palfrey At The Claremont, Tyrannosaur, Heartlands, Vera Drake, Philomena, and others.
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on 10 December 2016
Wholeheartedly concur with the other favourable reviews here but just wanted to give a mention to the excellent soundtrack that most of the other reviewers have overlooked in their reviews. It is a wonderfully atmospheric and appropriate soundtrack composed by the Australian pianist Paul Grabowsky and performed by some of the finest of the current generation of UK jazz musicians. For me the soundtrack begged for comparison with that to 'Sideways' (another of my favourite films). Jazz seems to be particularly suited to films dealing with age-related rights of passage and what 'Sideways' perhaps did for middle-age 'Last Orders' does for later life, bringing out humour, sometimes gallows humour, amongst the pathos.
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VINE VOICEon 1 July 2008
Schepisi has directed a magical bitter-sweet drama, helped by a cast reading like a who's who of British Londoner character actors: Courtenay, Hemmings, Caine, Hoskins, Mirren, Winstone and co turn in spellbinding performances in telling the story of their intermingled lives over the passage of time via the occasion of a journey to scatter the ashes of Jack (Caine), the town butcher and husband to Mirren, from Margate pier.

Not only that, but the cast playing their younger selves are first rate too and actually LOOK like the people they are supposed to be (especially JJ Feild, who looks the spitting image of a young Caine, and Kelly Reilly who bursts with sexual energy as Mirren's predecessor; the young Hemmings is played by the actor's son Nolan.)

Based on Graham Swift's novel, the film looks distinctly dreary in concept if you read the label, but the dialogue fizzes throughout and the result is both moving and charming without ever becoming stilted or melodramatic. Unusually, the flashbacks add value by gently filling in gaps without imposing their own will on the narrative structure.

The plot is not hugely demanding, dealing with familiy crises and couplings, Jack's debts, his disabled daughter and adopted son. But with a cast of this quality, the result is riveting. Go see!
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on 22 January 2014
I recently read the book form of this story without initially realising that a film had been made of it. Once I did and realised the great cast that it had decided to give it a go. Personally I felt that it was a little gem.
The story closely follows the plot storyline of the book which is either a good or bad thing depending on your taste and despite the somewhat gloomy nature of the story it was told in a quite light and at times humorous way with little flashbacks helping to give it a little depth. Personally I felt that it might have been better with a slightly younger cast as it is easier to make an actor older than it is younger (the image of Bob Hoskins with a rug on his head was quite amusing) but other than that minor quibble I found it highly enjoyable.
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on 22 May 2014
What a moving film! (no pun intended); a cleverly woven mesh of shots from the distant and recent past is merged with the film's action of today. Although this deals with the passing of Jack (Michael Caine), he is with us all through the film as slowly the buried intrigues are revealed. Although this is a very clever story, it has been put together in a very enjoyable manner replete with every type of emotion and played by such an excellent cast. It was so good to see such eminent older actors as David Hemmings, Tom Courtenay and Bob Hoskin together with Helen Mirren playing their roles to such credible effect. Definitely one to keep for watching again and again.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 30 September 2004
Three friends who have known Jack Dodds, a butcher, for almost fifty years, along with Jack's son Vince, meet at their local South London pub carrying a box containing Jack's ashes. Jack (Michael Caine) has died of heart failure, leaving a last request--that his ashes be cast off the Margate pier, several hours to the south of London. Ray (Bob Hoskins), a gambler; Vic (Tom Courtenay), an undertaker; Lenny (David Hemmings), a former prizefighter and heavy drinker; and Vince (Ray Winstone), Jack's son, a car dealer, set off for Margate in a Mercedes Benz that Vince has borrowed to honor the occasion.
As the men drive south, they reminisce about Jack, joke around, sing songs, irritate each other, and even threaten each other in the emotion of the moment. Director Fred Schepesi, who adapted the screenplay from the Booker Prize-winning novel by Graham Swift, alternates present scenes from the car with contrasting or ironic scenes from Jack's life in the past, contrasting the deadness of the present trip to Margate with the liveliness of the past, showing the relationships among the various characters. Jack's wife Amy (Helen Mirren) has chosen not to come with them for the "ceremony." She is making her weekly visit to their mentally handicapped daughter June, now fifty, whom Jack has never accepted.
The nature of each man's relationship with Jack, with spouses and children, and with each other during World War II and after are all presented in flashback--from Vince's affair with Lenny's daughter, to Ray's relationship with Amy, and Jack's last minute bet with Ray to pay off a debt. As the men's relationships evolve onscreen, the viewer recognizes that these are the kinds of relationships that ordinary men spend their lives developing. The viewer comes to know not only Jack, but also the four men in the car heading south to scatter his ashes, and on a larger, universal scale, other men who have shared long friendships, jokes, and common experiences .
It is a tribute to the cinematography (Brian Trufano) that I didn't really notice it until the film was over--so apropos to the action and thematic development that it never called attention to itself. The original music (Paul Grabowsky) sets the scene at the beginning of the film but does not intrude on the character development or the interior action thoughout the film. The sensational cast in this wonderful ensemble drama, the sensitive directing, the fully developed themes, and the overwhelming feeling that these characters and situations are real make this one of the best films I've seen in ages.
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on 12 November 2015
Could have been a stage play, though originally written as a seriously whimsical book and here transformed faithfully to film. If you are a bit rusty on cockney accents, you'll want to put on the subtitles. On the other hand, it will be worth it. You couldn't imagine Hollywood would even consider it, but it is fun and serious at the same time.
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on 29 December 2002
especially, lifelong friends in the short term? This is a question explored by LAST ORDERS, which in common usage means the final drink requests before the closing of an English pub.
Set in London and southeast England, the film opens with undertaker Vic (Tom Courtney) bringing the ashes of his good friend Jack (Michael Caine) to the local watering hole for a last pint with Jack's other lifelong friends, Ray (Bob Hoskins) and Lenny (David Hemmings), along with Vince (Ray Winstone), the son of Jack and Amy (Helen Mirren). Since Jack had expressed the wish to have his ashes scattered into the English Channel at the seaside city of Margate, the four men pile into a luxury Mercedes selected by Vince from his auto dealership as appropriate to the occasion, and set off for the coast. Amy has declined to come along. Rather, she spends the day visiting June (Laura Morelli), Jack and Amy's [handicapped] daughter, who's spent fifty years in an institution. June is so severely handicapped that she's never once recognized Amy as her mother, though the latter has visited once each week over the decades - alone.
The film's Cockney English dialog is difficult to fully understand until one's ear becomes attuned. For me, this was about a third into the movie. Since much of the speaking during this time occurs over a pint, or in the Benz headed to Margate, there's not much action to give clues as to what's being discussed. (My wife gave up and left me to hang tough.) Indeed, if it wasn't for the flashbacks generated by the memories and conversations among Jack's survivors - some extending back to World War II and before - the film would be a tad dreary.
The stellar cast of LAST ORDERS does a commendable job, along with the actors portraying the characters' younger selves, illustrating several truths surrounding death of advanced age: the old were young (or at least younger) once and full of life and passions; relationships of long standing are often not what they appear on the surface and can conceal deep currents; the lives of the survivors must necessarily go on. For these reasons, I liked this film in the balance, although the ordinariness of the plot is determined from the start by the middle class ordinariness of all the characters. I mean, the lives of Jack, Ray, Lenny, Vic and Amy are perhaps not far removed from the lives of most of that generation - perhaps yours, or that of the elderly folks next door. LAST ORDERS is nowhere near being a great film, but perhaps is a representation of real life that's worth viewing on a contemplative, rainy day afternoon.
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