The Last Station Blu-ray Review

The Last Station follows the last days of the great writer Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, otherwise known as Leo Tolstoy. Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) is one of the great Russian writers of the time, not only to the people of Russia, but to countless people around the world. His novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina told his ideas. As a supporter of nonviolent resistance, hatred for material objects, and state has started a new movement, the Tolstoyan movement. Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti), a good friend of Leo, has begun to persuade him to create a will to give the people his fortune and state in order for the Tolstoyan movement to go large, but ultimately leaving his family with nothing. To be able to pull this off, Vladimir sends Valentin Bulgakov (James McAvoy) to keep a close on Sofya Tolstaya (Helen Mirren). When Sofya starts to become suspicious of the activities of his husband, she begins a battle to convince Leo to leave them what’s she thinks is rightfully hers.

I am not much of a historian nor have I ever taken a college class where Tolstoy was a subject, so as far as any historical accounts and correctness of the film are concerned I am not too sure if it even has any truth to it. What I can tell you though, is that director and producer Michael Hoffman has managed to bring a biography book (The Last Station by Jay Parini) into an entertaining film. Normally time pieces like The Last Station are not necessarily my favorite, but the way this film is constructed is been quiet surprising. Hoffman has done an incredible job with the narration and story of the film with a fairly balance screenplay that includes some drama, some comedic situations, romance, and grief. The story is adapted from the book to the silver screen without many problems; again this is all done with incredibly good writing from the producer Michael Hoffman. It is certainly a great piece to take a look at.

The cinematography took place in several different locales in Germany including Saxony-Anhalt and a few other historical locations in Russia. Vintage clothing accompanied the locales to make the film easier to accomplish. The Last Station does not only feature some beautiful scenery, but it carries a great cast that gives incredible performances. We already knew what Christopher Plummer is still capable of achieving with his last performance in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, but at age of 81 he still manages to light up the screen in his portrayal of Leo Tolstoy. He manages to go from romance to cold to careless without a problem, he is versatile and so good with this character he deserved the Oscar nomination. If you think Plummer was good, Helen Mirren on the other hand steals the thunder in the film. With her role as Sofya she brings everything she has, is as if she has this other personality and the transition is completely seamless. There’s not many words as to how great she was with her character all I can say is she deserved that Oscar nomination as well. To round up the performances is James McAvoy, which most people will remember was the actor who starred in Wanted next to Angelina Jolie, who is a young upcoming actor did rather well with the Valentine character as a good Tolstoyan with a rather naïve personality. His character evolved as the story progressed, but his performance was obviously not as bright as Plummer’s and Mirren’s. I will say he has a bright future ahead of him.

The Last Station arrived on Blu-ray with a 1080p MEPG4-AVC encode framed at 2.35:1. The video transfer isn’t exactly what I was expecting, is not bad, but is not great either. Colors are vibrant and very vivid in plenty of shots throughout the film; very visible during the outdoor scenes. Black colors aren’t deep or inky as I would expect them to be, but the managed to look good most of the film. Skintones looking very natural. Fine details aren’t quite there, due to the softness of the film there is a level of detail that is missing. There is a thin layer of grain, but I do suspect some DNR was applied to the film to scrub some of the grain off.

The Last Station arrives on Blu-ray with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless audio track. Fortunately, the audio presentation is much better than the video. The dialog is clean, clear and crisp at all times. The surrounds are used constantly for atmospheric and ambiance effects that bring this track to life. The score sounds marvelous throughout the film as well. This maybe another dialog driven film, but it is possibly the best mix for this type of film.

The Last Station has a decent amount of extras which include two audio commentaries and some deleted scenes, but please check below for a breakdown of all the supplements.

Commentary with Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren – This features the lead actors talking throughout the film and they touch various different anecdotes about the film. Their commentary is rather entertaining as their chemistry is so obvious making this piece very entertaining and lively.

Commentary with Director Michael Hoffman – Features the director talking about the film, the ideas, and explaining some of the small things about the story. Is not as entertaining as the first commentary track, but it is very informational.

The Missed Station – This is more of a gag reel, featuring the cast in a series of bloopers and missed lines that happened throughout the film.

Deleted Scenes – There is a total of 7 deleted scenes Long Live Tolstoy, I’m the Guilty One, Don’t Give in to Her, Whereabouts Unknown, Rent a Train, I Just Don’t Want Him to Die, and Just Wanted to Say Goodbye.

A Tribute to Christopher Plummer – This features some footage from AFI Fest 2009 which allows an interviewer to ask questions to Christopher Plummer for the audience.

Previews – Featuring movie trailers for Mother and Child, Chloe, Get Low, Micmacs, The Runaways, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The White Ribbon, A Prophet, The Secret in Their Eyes, and Please Give.

Theatrical Trailer

movieIQ – Access cast and movie information from the tip of you finger as the movie is playing and more.

BD-Live Functionality – Access movie trailers on Sony’s portable via your profile 2.0 Blu-ray player.

The Last Station is probably the best biography to film adaptation I have seen in quite some time now. It features excellent performances by Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren. The story has a great narrative that contributes so the film doesn’t end in a total snoozer. For those that feel this might end up being a dull time piece I assure is not. The Last Station features a decent video transfer, but an impressive audio presentation. The supplements are entertaining, but nothing to keep you going long after the credits. All in all The Last Station is an entertaining movie that is sure to delight those who read the book by the same name, for everyone else I recommend at a rent.

The screen captures are only a small representation of what the Blu-ray looks like and are not representative of Blu-ray’s true quality.