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The Order

movie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Order

Starring: Heath Ledger, Shannyn Sossamon
Director: Brian Helgeland
Rated: R
RunTime: 102 Minutes
Release Date: September 2003
Genre: Horror

*Also starring: Mark Addy, Benno Furmann, Peter Weller, Seeta Indrani, Matt Patresi, John Schwab, Paola Emilia Villa

Review by Susan Granger
1 star out of 4

While "The Order" purports to be a religious thriller, it's neither religious nor a thriller. It's an occult tale based on the intriguing medieval concept of the Sin Eater. That's someone who can offer absolution by swallowing a confessor's sins and taking them upon himself. This relic ritual involves placing salt and bread on the deceased, reciting an incantation and then consuming the salt and bread, representing the sins. As reinterpreted by writer/director Brian Helgeland, that act of absolution brings with it a kind of immortality, so that if the Sin Eater ever wants to pass on to the afterlife, he must find another priest to eat all the sins he's accumulated over the years.

Heath Ledger plays Alex, a conflicted Carolingen priest who still says Mass in Latin. He is dispatched by Cardinal Driscoll of New York (Peter Weller) to Rome to investigate the death of his mentor, Father Dominic. Accompanying him is Mara, (Shannyn Sossamon), a suicidal psychic with whom Alex shares a troubled past. They team up with Alex's buddy, a burly Irish priest, Father Thomas (Mark Addy). These renegades operate in the shadowy underground of the Eternal City, fearing nothing, not even Church hierarchy, in their perilous determination to locate William Eden (German actor Benno Furmann): a.k.a.: The Other. Once found, this weary 600 year-old Sin Eater intones pithy mumbo-jumbo like, "Knowledge is the enemy of faith."

There's nothing suspenseful, shocking or scary about what happens, particularly since Nicola Pecorini's cinematography is cloaked in shadows. And if the trio of protagonists looks familiar, Brian Helgeland previously teamed Ledger, Sossamon and Addy in "A Knight's Tale." On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Order" is a dark, tedious 2. It's a murky cinematic mess.

Copyright 2003 Susan Granger

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