The Order (2003)
Main cast: Heath Ledger (Alex Bernier), Shannyn Sossamon (Mara Sinclair), Benno Fürmann (William Eden), Mark Addy (Thomas Garrett), Peter Weller (Driscoll), and Francesco Carnelutti (Dominic)
Director: Brian Helgeland

The Order has a very fascinating premise. Were the movie better acted, scripted and edited, or simply put, completely overhauled, The Order would have be a good movie.

It all begins when an ex-communicated priest Dominic is found dead. He had supposedly committed suicide. Dominic is a Carolingen priest. The Carolingens is apparently an order that actively investigates and researches Catholicism. This order isn't too popular with the Catholic theological circles in general as sometimes the Carolingens discover things that are quite disturbing. Dominic is the mentor of Alex, a priest banished to a small parish in New York, and Alex decides to fly down to Vatican City at once where Dominic died to meet up with Thomas Garrett, a maverick priest who is also close to Dominic. Alex wants to smuggle Dominic's body so that he can be buried in the church grounds with other members of the clergy (since Dominic is ex-communicated, he wasn't supposed to be buried there). But he and Thomas soon end up trying to learn the mystery behind Dominic's death. Along for the ride is Mara, a woman Alex once saved from being possessed. Alex and Mara love each other and this affection is eating Alex from inside and further challenges his already weakening faith.

Alex's quest leads him to a mysterious immortal creature, William Eden, who claims to be a "sin-eater". William performs a ceremony on the dying where he will cleanse the sins of the dying so that the dying can enter Heaven. The sin-eater is not happy with God and the world in general; in fact, a sin-eater was always once a person whose faith was severely dented. In William's case, his brother, a long time ago during the Crusades, offered some holy water to quench the thirst of a heretic prisoner out of pity and was ex-communicated from the Church as a result. When his brother died while helping to build a church and was refused proper burial, William who saw his brother die became so angry with the Church that he became a sin-eater. Sin-eaters act like vigilantes that offer mercy and forgiveness to those whom the Church refuses for one petty reason or the other.

The Order is interesting because for so long, it offers a fascinating and complex look at how sometimes organized religions can be so wrapped up in politics that they lose sight of what really matters in the first place. Unfortunately, the script relies too heavily on awkward and stilted expositions between the main characters, causing the pacing of the movie to come off as staged. Another problem is the cast, a reunion of the same people that starred in scriptwriter and director Helgeland's A Knight's Tale. Heath Ledger looks good as the tortured and conflicted Alex, but his actual acting is mostly wooden. Shannyn Sossamon is really awful - at a pivotal scene where she was supposed to be terrified, she comes off like a beauty queen that is looking frantically around the place for the teleprompter. Mark Addy offers some amusing moments, especially as a priest that yells a four-lettered word when he's mad, while Benno Fürmann is charming and even attractive as the sin-eater, but they are bogged down in their scenes shared with the wooden lead actor and actress because Ledger and Sossamon really do not have what it takes to carry off their roles.

I enjoy the premise of this story and therefore, despite the wooden acting and sometimes incoherent moments in the movie, I find The Order a compelling movie to watch from start to finish. I can't help wishing however that the movie is better directed, scripted, and acted. The Order is an interesting but average movie, but it should and could have been interesting and good.

Rating: 70

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