Period costume drama's. Can I get a hell yeah. Probably not, because usually they manage to be good, but in a way that miraculously manages to gave the viewer no satisfaction at all. Its all about admiring rather then immersing with these things and as a consequence you are not going to fall in love with a movie like The Last Station in the same way you are going to with, say X-Men 2, quality be damned. But this is a good if a little unspectacular example of awards baiting period fare.
Its the story of the twilight times of Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer), or more specifically of his volatile but passionate relationship with his wife (Helen Mirren), told from the vantage point of professional audience surrogate James McAvoy. I make this joke because, just as he did in The Last King Of Scotland, McAvoy's character exists solely to provide an eye into this world and although he has his own subplot, we all know who this story is really about. Both Mirren and Plummer scored Oscar nominations for this movie, and while I have little to argue regarding Mirren, who delivers an impressively impulsive, passionate performance that's stuff of Oscar heaven. Mirren is a great actress who seems only now (and by that I mean the last five years or so) to be getting the kind of credit she deserves. Plummer is good without being extra-ordinary, which is more in tune with the rest of the film to be honest. But his is a nomination I can understand, even if it is a little safe. McAvoy is always an engaging screen presence, and I think now just needs that one great role to set himself apart. This isn't it, although he is as dependable as you'd expect him to be. I loved Paul Giamatti, who is one of the greatest working actors in my book. And his delivery of the line " If I had a wife like you, I would have blown my brains out...Or moved to America." Is perhaps the only laugh in the entire movie. Giamatti continues to rule, even in a sublimated villain role. Anne Marie-Duff continues to slowly but surely make her name, delivering another solid performance to go with her recent Bafta Nomination. She's doing solid work, film by film. The movie itself is solid enough, perhaps stronger ideologically then emotionally, although Mirren's powerhouse performance more then makes up for that.
The Last Station is essentially what you'd expect it to be. Good, well written, factually correct and well acted. But after saying so many times that Tolstoy wasn't a messiah, it then proceeded to treat him like one and that did detract from the movie a little bit. Solid stuff, but it won't pry you away from you're Alien Quadrilogy.