The Order [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (15th January 2011).
The Film

For one reason or another, the cinematic market saw a flood of religion-based horror tales around the beginning of the new millennium, and they all managed to come and go without much critical acclaim, cult status or decent box office grosses. “The Order” (2003) was one that I recall seeing trailers for and not being even the slightest bit interested in finding out what it had to offer. The premise of some rogue priest operating outside the confines of the Catholic Church to battle… something; it wasn’t ever really made clear, from what I can recall. Regardless, it fizzled out in theaters and completely faded from memory until being minted in high-definition on Blu-ray. I have a strong suspicion that it never would have graced our favorite format if star Heath Ledger hadn’t prematurely died in 2008. But, he did, and now here we are with this film on Blu-ray courtesy of Fox when so many other must-have catalog titles languish in the vaults. Of course, Blu-ray enthusiasts know by now that Fox loves to pump out third-rate catalog titles in favor of their true classics. We can probably thank Joe Six Pack and his hatred of film grain for that, which is why most studios release more recent titles since they’ll look so much shinier than films more deserving of a spit-and-polish.

Father Alex Bernier (Heath Ledger) is a priest who operates within a diocese outside the Roman Catholic Church, but he’s still called in for a favor every now and then. When his mentor, Father Dominic (Francesco Carnelutti), is killed in Rome, Alex is summoned by the heir to the papal throne, Driscoll (Peter Weller), to investigate. It seems the church thinks someone known as the “soul eater” is responsible, and they’d like Alex and his buddy, Father Garrett (Mark Addy), to identify who is responsible. Joining Alex, for some inexplicable reason, is a former friend/would-be lover/mental patient, Mara (Shannyn Sossamon). Alex eventually finds this “soul eater”, William Eden (Benno Fürmann), and finds that he has much in common with this man who he thought was a cold killer.

This film has many problems. One of them is the fact that much of the plot seems to make little sense. I get what the premise is, but there are many aspects which are completely wasted or unnecessary. Shannyn Sossamon’s character serves no purpose here other than to die (don’t act so shocked!). Seriously, she’s absent for a huge chunk of the film (at one point I realized we haven’t seen her for almost an hour!) and when she does appear, it’s simply to tease a weak love story in an effort to give Alex greater motivation than his holy duties. Speaking of which, Alex is the last of an order of priests who are meant to thwart off evil – ghosts, demons, spirits… all that sort of stuff – but we don’t really see any of that here. The closest we come is a couple of creepy ghost kids, though I couldn’t even begin to tell you what relevance they have to the plot or who they’re supposed to represent. I just know they show up when creepy stuff is required by the plot, although they’re far from creepy. The worst they do is turn into a flock of CGI nightingales. Speaking of weird CGI creations, I read online that the film needed extensive post-production work when the sins the soul eater removes from the dying turned out to look too much like opaque calamari. I can’t imagine how bad they must’ve been at first because they certainly don’t look any better now.

I’ll give praise to Ledger’s performance. I can’t say I was much of a fan of his until he did “Brokeback Mountain” (2005), but that film opened up my eyes to someone who was able to delve deep into character and lose himself in the role. Here, he makes the most of the material given to him and turns in a performance that is the film’s sole saving grace. I don’t think the writers did a very good job portraying the emotional turmoil that should have been writhing inside of him – he is, after all, a priest who wants to love a woman, though it isn’t allowed. Since that’s his greatest motivating factor in doing anything here, I think the Mara role should have been beefed up a bit to give Ledger’s character a greater arc. As it stands, we don’t see much of Mara until she and Alex share an intimate evening together, which any horror fans worth his salt knows is a certain death.

I wanted to enjoy the film more than I did. I actually felt engrossed in the plot for about half of the film until I realized that it wasn’t really going anywhere. I did get a kick out of Father Garrett, Alex’s trusty advisor and obvious chum for the villains, because he kept up his wisecracks throughout the film, even during times of intense peril. And his character didn’t go the route I expected him to. Furmann was a bore as the “soul eater”, lending virtually no emotion or range to his role. That part was originally intended to go to French actor Vincent Cassell, a fantastic actor, though I think it was wise of him to pass on the role. Actually, he left 3 weeks into production due to “creative differences”, so he likely knew ahead of time what viewers found out in theaters: this movie is a turkey. I was hoping for some genuine thrills or frights, but nothing even transpired. Aside from being a reasonably quick way to kill 100 minutes, I can’t think of many reasons why someone shouldn’t just watch “The Exorcist” (1973) for the umpteenth time instead of something as mundane as this.


Presented in 1.85:1 1080p 24/fps, Fox is typically on-point when it comes to delivering top notch transfers on their catalog releases, and I didn’t find “The Order” to be an exception to that rule. As usual, they’ve done a fantastic job preserving the filmic look by maintaining a healthy grain structure without wiping the image clean by way of DNR manipulation. The level of detail revealed in facial close-ups is exquisite, as is the detail to be found in the background of the picture. Many scenes have Father Bernier studying old script in ancient buildings, and the frame is literally brimming with old time artifacts and manuscripts that look well-worn and intricate. A good portion of the film takes place in the dark of night, and I found that the image mostly held up under these conditions. Some scenes were slightly too dark, leaving the image crushed and too dim to make out details. But I didn’t think all nighttime scenes were this poor, and a few even surprised me with the contrast levels despite the bleak conditions. Colors are rarely prevalent, and aside from Mara’s sunflower there almost nothing that leaps off the screen. Cinematographer Nicola Pecorini seems to favor dark, muted tones instead of a more vibrant palette – a good choice considering the film’s subject matter.


I found the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track mixed at 48kHz/24-bit to be much better than expected. There’s a great deal of activity from the rear speakers, lending some chilling cues to this spiritual tale. Of course, we get the requisite disenchanted voices and eerie whispers chiming in at the right moments, but there’s a scene where Ledger is digging a grave in a rainstorm that sounds positively punishing. Rain assaults listeners from every corner of the room as thunder crackles and the low rumble of the LFE track adds more ominous tones. The most bombastic scene takes place during an accident on a construction site – there are pillars and wooden columns splintering and smashing all around, giving the LFE track a hefty workout. Otherwise, the track is well-balanced and clear, though there were many instances where characters employed their “2 inch voices” and the audio was a little too soft. The score, courtesy of composer David Torn, was so minimalist that I hardly noticed it was there at all. It gets a few moments to add dynamics to the track, but more often than not it’s simply a supporting player that never overwhelms listeners. A French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound tracks are also included. Subtitles are available in English for the hearing impaired and Spanish.


It’s far from loaded, but Fox has given “The Order” a decent showing for its Blu-ray debut. We get an audio commentary, several deleted scenes and the film’s theatrical trailer. Unfortunately, all of the bonus material is in standard definition. Yes, even the trailer.

The audio commentary with director Brian Helgeland is fairly dull. He spends the majority of the time rehashing what we’re seeing on-screen, and then delving into some uninteresting anecdotes. We get to learn his thoughts on many of the film’s locations and script choices, but he seems very subdued and bored by the process of recording this commentary. Considering the film barely has the juice to keep viewers engaged to begin with, I think he should’ve stepped this up a bit and given it some life.

There are a handful of deleted scenes (480p) available to watch individually or all together with the “play all” function, with optional audio commentary with director Brian Helgeland, for the following:

- “Father and the Nuns” runs for 1 minute and 34 seconds, Dominic visits nuns in their bakery.
- “Father Bernier gives Last Rites to George” runs for 2 minutes and 4 seconds, Alex gives Last Rites to a young boy dying in the hospital.
- “William Eden Visits the Nursery” runs for 1 minute and 8 seconds, the Soul Eater looks over a group of newborns during a hospital visit.
- “Father Bernier and the Nuns/Mara meets Father Garrett” runs for 2 minutes and 5 seconds, Alex speaks to the nuns Dominic met with earlier, while Mara has a spooky first encounter with the rotund Father Garrett.
- “Club Inferno Outtake” runs for 1 minute and 36 seconds, just some extra footage in the underground gothic dance club.
- “Nightingales” runs for 1 minute, a former lover of William Eden has memories of him as nightingales fly through her room.
- “Father Garrett’s End” runs for 42 seconds, we see the ailing priest has wound up in a mental institution after the events in the film.
- “Dailies” runs for 9 minutes and 3 seconds, this is some raw footage of scenes just after they were shot on set.

The film’s theatrical trailer (480p) runs for 1 minute and 54 seconds.


An eco-case, something which is becoming alarmingly ubiquitous as of late. I think we’d all better get used to it.


The film’s a total bore aside from Ledger’s performance, but I’d hardly say that makes this one worth checking out. Unless you’re a diehard Ledger fanboy (in which case, you probably own this already), I can’t think of a single reason to give this a recommendation. At least Fox has given us a solid encode with a strong picture and a good audio track.

The Film: C- Video: B Audio: B- Extras: C+ Overall: C


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