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on January 11, 2004
Alex (Heath Ledger) a rebellious priest from a disappearing fringe of Catholicism goes to Rome to determine the cause of the mysterious death of Dominic, his excommunicated mentor. He is accompanied in his quest by Mara (Shannyn Sossamon), a troubled love who just escaped an institution for the mentally ill and by Thomas (Mark Addy), the other living priest of his church. Together and with the help of a Cardinal (Peter Weller) and a murky and devious character named Chirac, he discovers that a Sin Eater, a person capable of absorbing someone else's sins thus granting them entry to the kingdom of Heaven over God's back, was behind the death of Dominic. When the church refuses Dominic a burial in holy ground, Alex, who is supposed to kill the Sin Eater under the Cardinal's suggestion, is instead lured by him to find the truth and understand the meaning of what he does. Then the conflict between Alex's beliefs and desires begins.
This movie has a well-assembled cast (some returning actors from Brian Helgeland's previous movie A Knight's Tale) and great acting throughout, specially from Ledger and Weller. It has a tight-written, coherent script with wonderful character interactions, great moody music and very-well placed and never overdone special effects. The best thing this movie offers though, is a subconscious lingering question about the darkness that surrounds us, be it as sin, demons, or other supernatural beings. In this regard this movie is more suspenseful and scarier than the best of horror movies.
Watch it, pay attention and enjoy.
--Reviewed by M. E. Volmar
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on September 15, 2003
After reading numerous critics' reviews of this movie, I went in with the lowest of expectations. In fact, if not for the insistence of my wife, I wouldn't have even bothered checking it out. I admit to being pleasantly surprised. I'd give it a solid 3.5 stars.
This movie delves into the dark side of the Catholic church. Peter Weller is delightfully evil as the "dark pope." Heath Ledger is solid as always. Jon Laurimore turns in a solid, awesome performance as the "Sin Eater", and Shannyn Sassamon gives the only questionable performance. I just couldn't figure out if she was trying to really get into her mentally disturbed character, or if she was too sleepy to really care.
As for the story, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The pacing was great for me. This is not an in your face, gross out, thrill a minute, jump out of your seat movie. It gets under your skin, and deep in the dark recesses of your mind. It's creepy and disturbing.
The movie highlights some fallacies within the beliefs and hiearchy of Catholicism. It is a dark fantasy, and should be accepted as such. If you aren't certain about it, wait for the DVD, but one way or the other, I think you'll enjoy it.
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on September 7, 2003
A thought provoking and entertaining film with lots of imagery and some jump out of your seats moments. Not an action thrill ride but not slow moving either. Would certainly make people uncomfortable if they devoutly believed all church teachings.
The story was well acted and Heath Ledger especially gave a mature and "old soul," feel to his approach.
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on September 7, 2003
WARNING**: To those who are religious, and esp. practicing Catholics, you might find this movie offensive and/or blasphemous.**
Now that that's out of the way, this movie starts off on the mysterious edge and moves further and further until you're sucked in.
Alex (Heath Ledger) is a young Catholic priest, who has recently heard that his mentor, Dominic, was found dead in his home. The powers that be have written this off as suicide (a cardinal sin) as Dominic had been ex-communicated from the church long ago.
When Alex visits the morgue and sees strange markings upon Dominic's body--he now knows his death was more than just a simple suicide.
Alex and his co-priest, Thomas (Mark Addy), decide to delve into the investigation, and decide that maybe it was other forces that killed Dominic, rather than his own hand.
Alex discovers the "Sin Eaters" --a religious sect that can absolve the sins of the damned, by freeing his soul. When this ritual is done, the sinner's soul is ultimately freed, without knowledge of past sins. The sins (and the knowledge of) are now the burden of the "sin eater". However, this is done for a price--your own life. **
I won't go any further, but by now, you can pretty much get a gist of what the story is about and how it plays out.
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on January 25, 2016
I can’t say that this movie is the worst I’ve ever seen. Truth is, I’ve seen worse and I’ve watched those terrible movies because it fascinated me at how terrible they really were.

Although “The Order” wasn’t the worst, unfortunately it did fall in the genre of bad movies for which I watched because I was fascinated at just how terrible they could really be.

Okay so, why was it so bad? Well in the first place, it made no sense. The writers and/or directors didn’t seem to know what they wanted to do. It seems like the plot kept searching for a new “bad guy”. In an attempt to keep the viewer guessing, there were so many twists in the plot that the plot became diffused and very unfocused.

I have no idea if such an “Order” truly exists in Christianity. I’m aware of several religions and or pagan beliefs that involve a “sin eater” but I seriously doubt that one such as the one this movie depicts, exists in Christianity.

Frankly, it seemed to me like the movie was trying to re-create a “The Da Vinci Code” kind of mystery which would build to a final exciting climax. If so, like many other movies that tried to “re-create/rewrite” a previously written, hit story/movie, it failed.

I believe that the performances of all the actors in the movie were excellent. However, their best performances could not have saved this movie. And that’s true for any movie/story that’s written so terribly as to be unable to see the plot or point trying to be made.

The movie started off slow and never really got off the ground. In fact, it went from “slow” to “tediously boring” and then, back to “slow”, (which is better than “tediously boring”, I guess). The filming and the scenery were done very well.

The sound engineering was okay and at least for the most part, stayed at a reasonable volume level in its lowest and highest spans. I don’t know who it was that gave this movie a higher rating than two stars, but the fact that someone has reiterates that it’s all “in the eye of the beholder”.

In my “eye”, (and humble opinion), I could barely get this movie to stores and certainly don’t recommend it.
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on October 4, 2004
"The Order" starts off well enough. A priest bikes through Rome and arrives at his home, a dilapidated structure haunted by zombie-like children who look more like they should be in the pages of a Gap Kids photo shoot than haunting the outskirts of a major metropolis. The priest and the children gaze meaningfully at each other, and then the priest goes inside. There, he's greeted by a suave younger man in a nice suit. There is danger in the air.

Unfortunately, the movie never gets any better. Although Heath Ledger pulls off the tragically hip, he's completely unbelievable as a young Catholic priest. Shannyn Sossamon plays a completely vapid love interest. There's a back-story there, but it's shallow and ill conceived.

Everyone in the movie, outside of Ledger and Sossaman and their sidekick, appear to be corrupt, but in a VH1 goes to Europe sort of way. Where does one find a renegade cult figure? Why, in an underground Catholic themed disco, of course. Just follow the Sinead O'Connor look-alike through the catacombs.

That, to me, is the central problem with this film. It tries far too hard to look edgy and cool, and completely loses track of the story. The typical pseudo-philosophy dished out in the mental struggle between our hero and his antagonist is so ham-handed and dull as to be completely laughable.

The cinematography is gorgeous and the idea behind the plot is nifty. I really wish the makers of this film had put more time into it, because it could have been something worth watching.
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on July 25, 2013
No lengthy customer's review of "The Order" (or, as it also has been titled, "The Sin-Eater") is needed here, on Amazon-U.S.'s WWW site; there are lots of quite good ones here, if one searches the multiple entries under both of the film's titles, and on Amazon-U.K. However, for quick and ready convenience of users who prefer to avoid longer comments about "The Sin Eater", I'll make some relatively brief remarks here. The film is of the occult Inner-Workings-of-the-Church (i.e. the Romish Catholic Church) genre, with lots of creepy motifs and bizarre, cinematically induced happenings. A young and very handsome priest, Fr. Alex (Heath Ledger's role), a wonderfully Latin-celebrating traditionalist (hooray!), is drawn, entranced, to the more hidden and occult byways of his Church.

Alas, this fascination sucks Fr. Alex and his older, experienced Satan-fighting priestly cohort, Fr. Thomas (Mark Addy) deeply into realms, at the highest ecclesiastical level, of evil and superstition-brought-to-life. Fr. Alex ends up pursuing a "sin eater", one William Eden (played by Benno Fürmann, looking surprisingly comely and seductively dapper for this role, as the movie studio has costumed and cosmetically enhanced him), who is an aeons-old (but prime-life looking) occultist, who draws sin and condemnation to himself from excommunicated sinners about to face the end of their mortal lives, gaining for them forgiveness without God's ordained means of grace and sacraments. This is not exactly orthodox Christianity, namely Roman (and Eastern Rite) Catholic, Anglo-Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Lutheran, in case one does not know that already.

Fr. Alex succumbs to the temptations of the flesh, permitting Ledger to shed some clothes to studly effect, although surely Ledger's fans would prefer to see much more of the beauteous surface, revealed to the camera to greater (and more intimate) extent, of that Australian star's buck-naked, appealingly svelte Anglo-Celtic body; Ledger undoubtedly had been one of the most undeniably sexy male actors of his generation. The ensuing lovemaking is (even if more suggestively than explicitly) pretty "hot", if all too brief.

Alas, Alex loses his gal, Mara (played by Shannyn Sossamon), anyway, to the treacherous misdoings of the sin-catcher. In forfeiting his priestly vows, the young priest has acceded to William Eden's blandishments of "being a man rather than a priest". His predicament leads Alex also to gain occult power, too, however unwillingly he at first has been seeking it on a conscious level; Alex seizes it in a moment of panic, thus being doomed to many centuries of bondage to the very potency which Eden gladly relinquishes to Alex for the peace of the grave for which Eden has come to yearn.

Thus, things have gotten a bit complicated, needless to say; the sin-chewing Eden has slain Mara, the priest's beloved, and he has tricked Fr. Alex into accepting Eden's offer to exchange his own occult function with Alex, for the release from life that Eden so much desires. The interaction of Fr. Alex with William Eden, as well as the gradually intensifying relationship of Alex with Mara, are fascinating to watch, as these three masterly actors play this out with consummate dramatic skill, sensitivity, and nuance. As the movie ends, a new sin-eater, Alex himself, now sets out upon his centuries-to-come of work and, in doing so, thankfully, he foils the wicked schemes of an ambitiously scheming and mega-wicked, papacy-seeking cardinal.

The film is visually gorgeous, with lots of Catholic artwork and ecclesiastical bling-bling, fine Roman architecture (pagan and, especially, Roman Catholic), and so forth to view. It makes for an enjoyable albeit eerie way to pass some time at the video-player and screen.
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on January 1, 2007
I recall seeing TV ads for this movie right before it was released on DVD. It's advertised as a horror movie about an order within the Catholic Church that investigates the paranormal. So, of course, when I finally did buy this movie in 2005, that's what I was expecting, and what I wanted. But what this movie actually is is something completely different. I didn't like it much the first time around, and I felt cheated. But then it stayed with me and I eventually watched it again, with an open mind, and again and again. Now it's one of my favorite movies.

I will not lie - in many places the movie feels like a failed attempt to be an intelligent thriller and a scary horror movie at the same time. It's not scary, not one bit, but it does feel like a thoughtful, intelligent, and atmospheric movie. It also requires the viewer to pay attention. It's the sort of film that upon repeat viewings you'll pick up on things you missed before, and you may just like it the more you see it.

The cast, mostly transplanted from the director's previous "A Knight's Tale", is pretty good, and the only problems I saw were an occasional badly written line that they did their best with. The film is also very appealing visually and has a gothic tone and atmosphere that I really liked.

I would recommend this film to fans of supernatural movies, but be cautious because it's not what you'd expect.
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The Order (Brian Helgeland, 2003)
There are so many people involved with this film who need to have the question "what the hell were you thinking?" asked to them.
The idea is fantastic. The head of an order of priests, Father Dominic (Francesco Carnelluti) is found dead in his apartment, leaving only two living priests in his sect, Alex (Heath Ledger, with whom Helgeland previously worked in A Knight's Tale) and Thomas (Mark Addy, who will forever be remembered as "the fat guy" from The Full Monty). The two of them, accompanied by a woman (Shannyn Sossamon) Alex has conflicting feelings about, travel to Rome on the orders of a high-ranking cardinal (Robocop's Peter Weller) to investigate Dominic's death, and along the way uncover a number of strange and wonderful things, including the last living Sin Eater, William Eden (Benno Furmann, who will be playing Siegfried in the upcoming film version of The Ring of the Nibelungs), who is in some way intimately connected with Dominic's death.
It all sounds fabulous on paper. And, to an extent, it is. But various factors kill the movie. Both Weller and Furmann deliver their lines as if someone told them, "sound as artificial as possible." Weller might as well still have the metal suit on. And the odd pair of "orphans" who hang around outside Dominic's apartment; I'm sure that, in a director's cut, we'd have some concrete idea of why they hang around Dominic, but a hypothesis is offered, and then the plot thread disappears into the distance, never to be heard from again.
One rather expects a level of ludicrousness from Ledger, Sossamon, and Helgeland, who between them were responsible for A Knight's Tale a few years back. This, however, goes beyond silly. It borders on brilliant, but stays just this side of bad. Which makes it seem even worse. ** ½
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I enjoy intelligent thrillers, even those that move forward slowly and carefully. For example, I thought "The Game" with Michael Douglas was one of the best of this type of movie. I thought this movie had the potential of being in the same class as "The Game," but I was disappointed.

Part of the problem is the story itself. Alex Bernier (Heath Ledger) is a young priest investigating the apparent suicide of his mentor. It is important to the story to realize that all the principal characters are Catholic. While suicide is a sin in all religions, in the Catholic faith it is perhaps the worst sin of all because it can never be forgiven and prevents that person from being buried in hallowed ground. Alex struggles to believe that his mentor could have committed suicide and sets out to understand why or to prove that he did not commit suicide.

The movie plods along, paced by Alex's thoughts and his interaction with William Eden (Benno Fürmann) and Mara Sinclair (Shannyn Sossamon), along with several other characters, including Peter Weller in one his most unusual roles. The problem with the pacing is that the core issues in this movie are the shock of "sin eating," a pagan practice that dates back hundreds of years, and corruption with the church. Perhaps Catholics might be shocked that sin eating might still exist, but Protestants are going to yawn and say "so what?" Further, with the significant on-going publicity regarding a variety of crimes committed by various priests and the ensuing cover up by the Catholic Church, political corruption within the Church and the possibility that some of the most important members of the church might be other than they seem just isn't all that shocking. This movie should have been made twenty years ago when it might have had more of an effect.

The actors here are not at fault. The acting throughout is quite good. I was very impressed by all the principal characters, especially by Heath Ledger, who did an excellent job. Shannyn Sossaman as his conflicted love interest was dark, brooding, very sensual and sexual and yet also very innocent; outstanding acting. The cinematography was similarly excellent and enhanced the subject quite well. The problem with the movie is that the central conflict will have little effect on many people, and thus they will lose interest and not want to spend the effort to focus on the complex, philosophical story line.

Perhaps Brian Helgeland could have made this movie a different way or with a different script and achieved the effect he was hoping to create. Instead the movie spends far too much time on religious philosophy and on the shock of salvation by means other than religious beliefs, and many members of the audience will have a difficult time to relate.
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