The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Sony Classic Pictures - 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 113 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, English, French
Starring: Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren, James McAvoy, Paul Giamatti, Anne-Marie Duff, Kerry Condon
Written & Directed by: Michael Hoffman based on the novel by Jay Parini
Music by: Sergey Yevtushenko
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: June 22, 2010
"Intoxicating. Infuriating. Impossible. Love"
Academy Award® winner Helen Mirren (Best Actress, The Queen, 2006) and Christopher Plummer star in this compelling look at the final days of literary icon Leo Tolstoy. Having renounced his title and property, Tolstoy makes plans to donate his royalties to the Russian people, supported by his trusted disciple Chertkov (Paul Giamatti). Tolstoy's outraged wife wages a one-woman war to challenge her husband's outrageous act of idealism.
The last station is a biopic film based upon the novel by Jay Parini. The story primarily focuses on the last year in the life of famed Russian novelist, essayist, dramatist, educational reformer, and later in life Christian anarchist and pacifist. In 1862, Tolstoy married Sophia Andreevna Bers, they had thirteen children, (five of whom died during childhood.) The marriage was marked from the outset by passion, and emotional insensitivity but the couple was ostensibly happy. It was during this time that Tolstoy composed the literary masterpieces War and Peace and Anna Karenina with Sophia acting as his secretary, proof-reader and financial manager. His later relationship with Sophia would become more complicated as his beliefs became more pronounced and he sought to reject his inherited and earned wealth, including the renunciation of the copyrights on his earlier works. During this period there was conflict between Tolstoy's close companion Vladimir Chertkov, who started The Tolstoyan movement, and Sophia. Chertkov sought to further the movement by having Tolstoy change the provisions in his will regarding the destination of the royalties earned from his writings. In an effort to keep a closer eye on the goings on in the Tolstoy home Chertkov sent a young Tolstoyan enthusiast by the name of Valentin Bulgakov to stay at the Tolstoyan commune Telyatinki. From there Valentin could commute daily to the Tolstoy estate where he would assist Tolstoy with his work. Being a Tolstoyan Valentin renounced worldly possessions and avoided the physical temptations of the opposite sex. That is until he met Masha, a free spirited, nonchalant and beautiful young woman the likes of which he had never known. Valentin was welcomed into the Tolstoy home and immediately bonded with both Leo and Sophia. He was enamored by Leo and commiserated with Sophia's struggle to maintain an emotional connection with her husband while trying to preserve her family's financial future. Leo's declining health, plus the mounting tensions between Chertkov and Sophia placed Valentin in the middle of a volatile situation that was about to come to a head. This left Valentin torn between his growing love for Masha, his devotion to Chertkov/the movement and his affection for both Leo and Sophia. Before it was over each will be put to the test.
I generally tend to like biopic style films as long as they are well done. This adaptation is done pretty well and generally falls into the romance/drama categories although levity plays a welcomed and appropriate role as well. I don't know much about Tolstoy but he seems to have led an interesting and diverse life that could hardly be seen as boring especially if there is any truth to the volatile and passionate relationship conveyed in the film between him and Sophia. It's a shame that the final stage of his life was fraught with so much conflict. I can understand how difficult it must have been for Sophia to accept the fact that her husband seemed to put more stock in his ideals than the merits/fruits of their 48 year union. The smaller yet integral storyline about the romance between Valentin and Masha helped to offset the focus on Leo/Sophia while offering a glimpse at the budding love that probably existed between the older couple nearly half a century earlier. I found the characters (even the bad ones) likeable and well developed which provided a solid foundation for the interpersonal relationships among the principles. This lent weight to the multi-layered and charming story where the seeds of young love take root in the shade of a man and wife's devout yet turbulent relationship which comes full circle despite outside influences. I thought the cast was well placed, right down the smaller supporting players. I find Helen Mirren captivating and thought she was the cornerstone here. That isn't to lessen the contributions made by Paul Giamatti, James McAvoy, Christopher Plummer, Anne-Marie Duff or Kerry Condon. The Last Station is spirited and engaging while feeling less biographical than some may expect. Nevertheless it makes for a warm and genuine film that I thought was very good.
The rating is for brief scenes of sexuality/nudity.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
The Last Station comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 26 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.7 Mbps.
The high definition video quality was on par with other new release films of its type and generally looked great. Colors were natural looking with a pleasing and reserved quality that capably handled the somewhat limited palette required by the period settings and clothing featured in the film. Flesh tones varied a bit with some appearing well delineated and lifelike while others had a slightly pale appearance. Contrast was punchy and dynamic in quality which invigorated bright scenes with minimal loss of detail. Images were detailed and crisp, with definable lines and appreciable dimension. While I noticed sporadic occasions where resolution fluctuated slightly this appeared innate to the photography and never called fidelity into question. Blacks were strong with discernable gradational quality while detail in dark areas and low lit sequences was estimable which enhanced depth. The video was rendered well and didn't show any overt signs of compression related anomalies or video artifacts.
The lossless DTS-HD MA soundtrack readily handled the elements contained in the recording. The presentation retained a front loaded perspective with well defined and clearly articulated dialogue that extended well into the room. Sounds were reproduced with discerning clarity and delineation that brought forth plenty of subtle nuance and low level detail. Surround activity was limited to rear channel spatial cues and occasional directional sounds. This wasn't a dynamically demanding soundtrack however things like the sound of the locomotive's steam engine had enough weight to give my room a tremble. This presentation was a perfect match with the source material and sounded fine.
This title includes Sony's Movie IQ feature which requires a BD-Live connection and allows fans the option of viewing continuously updated details on the cast and crew and to explore relevant trivia.
- Commentary with Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren
- Commentary with director Michael Hoffman
- The missed station - outtakes/gag reel - 7 minutes
- Tribute to Christopher Plummer - 2009 AFI Film Festival - 18 minutes
- 7 deleted scenes
- (HD) Theatrical Trailer
The Last Station is a spirited, engaging and genuinely enjoyable film that is based on the novel of the life of Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy by Jay Parini. The story focuses on the last year of his life which was fraught with conflict over his desire to donate the royalties from his works to the Russian people which was strongly and openly opposed by his wife Sophia. Actually the film feels less biographical and attempts to capture the essence of their tumultuous yet close relationship while offering facts that surround the people that were closest to him in his final days. It came off quite well thanks to a solid script and capable casting which resulted in a warm and entertaining film that I found was time well spent. It comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony in typically good fashion which features strong high definition video and clear lossless sound quality. The bonus feature set is above average and includes Sony's MovieIQ feature, a pair of audio commentary tracks, outtakes/deleted scenes, and a tribute to Christopher Plummer. Toss this in your rental queue and take it for a spin.
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Ralph C. Potts
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|The Last Station Blu Ray|