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The last station - Helen Mirren, James McAvoy, Christopher Plummer, Michael Hoffman

Threat advisory: Elevated - Significant risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

The last station is a love story set during the last year of the life and turbulent marriage of the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) and his wife the Countess Sofya (Helen Mirren).

Tolstoy, having rejected his title and embraced an ascetic life style, finds himself increasingly at odds with Sofya. As his devoted disciple Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti) urges him to sign a new will leaving the rights to his work to the Russian people rather than his family, the conflict between husband and wife grows to breaking point. The whole affair is witnessed by Tolstoy's new secretary, Valentin Bulgakov (James McAvoy), whose burgeoning love for the beautiful and feisty Masha (Kerry Condon) is set against the waning love of Tolstoy and Sofya.

A man at war within and without, Tolstoy, in his final days, makes a run for peace on a train with his physician, his daughter and Bulgakov. Sofya and Chertkov follow, but, too ill to continue, Tolstoy stops at the tiny railway station at Astapovo. While hundreds camp outside awaiting hourly reports, it is here, at a remote railway junction, that Leo Tolstoy finds the peace he has been searching for.

Theatrical propaganda posters

The last station theatrical one sheet imageThe last station theatrical one sheet image

Target demographic movie keyword propaganda

  • Film Leo Tolstoy biography Russia author love relationship romance Tolstoyan death train station marriage Countess

Persons of interest

  • James McAvoy .... Valentin Bulgakov
  • Christopher Plummer .... Leo Tolstoy
  • Paul Giamatti .... Vladimir Chertkov
  • Helen Mirren .... Sofya Tolstoy
  • Anne-Marie Duff .... Sasha Tolstoy
  • Kerry Condon .... Masha
  • Patrick Kennedy .... Sergeyenko
  • John Sessions .... Dushan
  • David Masterson .... Reporter
  • Nenad Lucic .... Vanja
  • Tomas Spencer .... Andrey Tolstoy
  • Maximilian Gärtner .... Kind
  • Jay Parini .... Author
  • Michael Hoffman .... Screenwriter
  • Michael Hoffman .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

December must be the winter of our discontent because so many of the films I've seen this month have been about sad people being overwhelmed by their shit lives. The last station is no exception. Not only is it Russian but it's about a whole lot of people trying to get something out of a rich, famous and dying old man, and it's not just what he has that they want, it's what he will become when he finally dies: everyone likes a Prophet, especially when they're dead and buried and you can take over the spin over what they said, what they meant and where they wanted you to go. Just ask Jesus how the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) that form the New Testament in the Christian bible vary from what he said at the time. Talk about misquotes and "taken out of context": the four divinely inspired authors don't even agree. Great minds are forever being dragged down into the dirt by lesser men and women trying to lift themselves up. It's like watching the drowning backpackers climbing on top of the lifeguards on Bondi rescue. (Not that you can blame them for that. Hur, hur. - Director of Intelligence.)

But I digress. The last station is a period film full of class consciousness, gorgeous frocks, magnificently appointed rooms in country estates, poor plumbing and horses shitting all over the streets. It's also the rougher side of the life that's presented in Cheri (Chéri) and An old mistress (Une vieille maîtresse), between which it sits temporally. Spicing this up is the political aspect: the Russian empire is about to fall, a completely new society is about to rise and everyone's life will be turned upside down. Tolstoy is inadvertently part of that movement in that he's advocating societal change to a degree that the Tsar has set the secret police on him. Any government that has secret police is a dictatorship. Every dictatorship attempts to ruthlessly crush dissent because it's the only way to keep control (dictators have domination issues). The Tsar is a dictator. Tolstoy is his natural enemy, despite being from the nobility (he's a Count - a real Count). Then there's the Tolstoyan movement: a non-violent, religious, self-denying, communistic lifestyle that is full of good ideas and poor application. What's the point of celibacy? Why promote the idea that everyone is equal and should therefore do an equal share of the work when the reality is that no-one is equal and any attempt to ignore that is just people trying to run other people's lives. Level playing fields are social engineering, not God's own truth.

But I digress. The cast is chock full of trans-Atlantic talent: Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren, James McAvoy, Paul Giamatti, Anne-Marie Duff - they squeeze every last drop of emotion out of the script. It's like watching CCTV of people standing around while a kitten drowns. You just want to get in there and DO something to save him (Tolstoy). That's a mark of a good film: the audience's need to change the world (or themselves), even if it's only a world of flickering light. I liked this movie, even though I didn't like the people in it. And it has trains. Every movie should have trains.

The Leo Tolstoy biography movie The last station is directed by Michael Hoffman and stars Helen Mirren, James McAvoy, Christopher Plummer.

Government security censorship classification

M (Sex scene)

Surveillance time

112 minutes (1:52 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 1 April 2010

Cinema surveillance images

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