Movie review: "The Last Station"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

But while "The Last Station" has landed its share of Academy Awards nominations, it's surprisingly fun given the subject matter. And it doesn't run 1,000 pages plus.

Famed novelist Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) resides on his Russian estate, where he's surrounded by the followers of his public-property-deriding namesake movement. His wife Sofya (Helen Mirren), however, certainly doesn't denounce her privileged countess status.

The power-hungry head of the Tolstoyans, Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti), sends an eager follower (James McAvoy) to serve as Tolstoy's personal secretary. Chertkov hopes to convince the author to turn over his works to the movement upon his death - to the dismay of Sofya.

It's tough to recommend a movie solely on its performances, but Plummer and Mirren really are that good here as the halves of a dysfunctional but beautiful love story. While McAvoy can be too earnest, he delivers needed humor, though the rest of the support pales in comparison.

The film itself is solid if uneven. A prim opening loosens up a bit, as sharp wit, smart humor and a youthful romance warm things up considerably.

The final act slathers on tragedy, but also gives the lead actors a chance to showcase their talents. That showcase alone is worth the ticket price.

"The Last Station"

Opens Friday

Grade: B