37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
"Four geezers and a box.",
This review is from: Last Orders  [DVD] (DVD)
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.