The Last Castle

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The Last Castle is a 2001 drama film about a struggle between inmates and the warden of the prison, based on the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth. A highly decorated U.S. Army Lieutenant General, court martialed and sentenced for insubordination, challenges the commandant over his treatment of the prisoners.

Directed by Rod Lurie. Written by David Scarpa, Graham Yost, and Sam Mercer.
A castle can only have one king. tag lines
A castle can only have one king.
Some may question my methods- but they do work. No soldier has ever died needlessly under my command, Mr. Irwin. ~ Colonel Winter
You see, I too share the burden of command. You may not think I have ever set foot on a battlefield, but that is because you have never sat behind this desk. This desk! My men and I are vastly outnumbered. We spend every day behind enemy lines because, make no mistake about it Mr. Irwin, they are the enemy! ~ Colonel Winter
The only difference between this castle and all the rest is that they were built to keep people out. This castle is built to keep people in. ~ Eugene R. Irwin

Eugene R. Irwin[edit]

  • [addressing the assembled prisoners as a tribute to Aguilar] Some may think to be remembered in this way. Would be a disgrace to a soldier. But this is not a disgrace. The greatest monuments to fallen men... are not made in marble. They're deep in the sea, deep in the jungles, on foreign battlefields, a rifle driven into the ground with a helmet on top... [clinches fist] and some tags. And that is the tribute that this man has earned. [puts Aguilar's dogtags in the rock] Gentlemen, Corporal Ramon Aguilar, United States Marine Corps. [someone starts singing the Marine Hymn, and everybody soon sings it]
  • Take a look at a castle. Any castle. Now break down the key elements that make it a castle. They haven't changed in a thousand years. 1: Location. A site on high ground that commands the territory as far as the eye can see. 2: Protection. Big walls, walls strong enough to withstand a frontal attack. 3: A garrison. Men who are trained and willing to kill. 4: A flag. You tell your men you are soldiers and that's your flag. You tell them nobody takes our flag. And you raise that flag so it flies high where everyone can see it. Now you've got yourself a castle. The only difference between this castle and all the rest is that they were built to keep people out. This castle is built to keep people in.

Colonel Winter[edit]

  • [miffed by BG Wheeler's recent inspection of the complex, decides to read a part of Eugene Irwin's case file before the prisoners] Eugene R. Irwin, Lieutenant General, United States Army, in direct contravention of an order to evacuate Burundi by his commander-in-chief"- That is the president, for those of you who do not know -"selected a platoon of men to extract Jackson Ngwe, a local warlord. Disregarding reliable intelligence, General Irwin's reconnaissance team entered the ville at 0300. Eight men were captured and executed." Disregarding reliable intelligence... eight men were executed. What I want you men to understand is what the consequences can be when you choose to follow a man who is motivated solely by his pride. A man who will do anything for one more victory notch on his belt, no matter what the cost, before he fades away.


[Colonel Winter tries to orient the now-Prisoner Irwin]
COL Winter: I know what you're thinking. Do I salute you, or do you salute me? Well, the answer is neither. My men salute me, of course, and each other according to rank, but there is no saluting within the facility by the general prison population. Well, first things first; are you hungry?
Eugene R. Irwin: No.
COL Winter: Are you sure? Mondays are our Salisbury-steak night.
Irwin: Always a cause for celebration.
COL Winter: [Smiles] Indeed, indeed. [Motions to Irwin] If you'll step over here, I'll give you a general layout of the prison. The building we are in now is the administration building. That building there houses the tiers; that's where you and the other inmates will live. The building next to it is the laundry, where I've had you assigned. [Notices Irwin looking at a dilapidated stone wall in the prison yard] Oh, that is the old prison block wall. That's all that's left from the original prison from the 1870s. I could've removed it, but I thought it was important to keep a sense of history, so I asked the inmates to rebuild it. They seem to enjoy it; it's a matter of some pride now.
[CPT Peretz, the Colonel's aide, knocks on the office door and lets in prisoner Aguilar, who is carrying the warden's dinner tray.]
CPT Peretz: Sir.
COL Winter: Yes, please, on the table there. I personally meet with every new inmate here at the prison, usually downstairs, and I ask them a question: What do you expect from your time here at The Castle?
Irwin: Nothing. Just to do my time and go home.
COL Winter: Perfect. That is the perfect answer.

[Irwin interferes with the punishment of prisoner Aguilar, instructing him to lower his arm]
CPT Peretz: Prisoner Aguilar, resume your punishment.
Irwin: The punishment is over.
CPT Peretz: Aguilar, I'm warning you.
[CPT Peretz raises his club, ready to strike Aguilar. Irwin grabs his arm, stopping him. Several guards charge over, ready to strike Irwin]
Irwin: You're better than this.
[The guards run into Irwin, knock him down, and start beating him.]
CPT Peretz: Okay, okay! That's enough!
[A siren goes off; a gate opens and COL Winter and a team of guards enter the yard.]
Loudspeaker: All inmates will remain on the ground in the prone position.
COL Winter: Prisoner Irwin. I understand that coming here must be a big adjustment for you. To go from commanding thousands of troops in battle, to having no war to fight and no one to follow you must not be easy. However, I do ask that you learn how things are done around here. I try to set an example for the other men. Saluting is prohibited. Aguilar was saluting; he needed discipline. Surely you understand that.

[COL Winter and several guards are observing the inmates out in the exercise yard, noticing Irwin's rising status among the prisoners.]
CPL Zamorro: Privates are "Pal", Corporal's "Buddy", Sergeant's "Sport", officers are "Chief"- playing soldiers, sir.
COL Winter: Hearts and minds. He is offering them self-respect, in exchange for loyalty. The general is building himself an army.
CPL Zamorro: He can have the hearts and minds, sir. Long as we got 'em by the balls.
COL Winter: Well put, Corporal.
CPL Zamorro: Thank you, sir.
[COL Winter starts to leave the guard tower; CPT Peretz follows.]
COL Winter: Bring him to my office.
CPT Peretz: Who?
COL Winter: The Prince of Venezuela! Who do you think?
CPT Peretz: General Irwin?
COL Winter: Mister Irwin!

[Colonel Winter summons Irwin again]
COL Winter: These men are not here for unpaid parking fines and traffic-
Irwin: I'm under no illusion as to why the men are here, Colonel. I just think that they might be reminded of some of the good things they've done, rather than only the worst.
COL Winter: Yes, that is something my predecessor used to say. And in his last two years here there were seven escape attempts, 12 injury assaults on officers and NCOs - including one killed. Since I've assumed command there have been zero escape attempts, zero injury assaults , zero fatalities. Some may question my methods- but they do work. No soldier has ever died needlessly under my command, Mr. Irwin. You see, I too share the burden of command. You may not think that I have ever set foot on a battlefield, but that is because you have never sat behind this desk. This desk! My men and I are vastly outnumbered. We spend every day behind enemy lines because, make no mistake about it Mr. Irwin, they are the enemy! [Pauses, gets up and faces Irwin.] But I don't need to justify myself to you, do I?
Irwin: I don't know. Do you?
COL Winter: This wall, that has become the focus of so much tension and turmoil, well, in about two minutes, there will be no more wall.

[Winter is trying to compromise with Irwin]
Irwin: No. Not okay! It's too late, Colonel.
Winter: Too late for what?
Irwin: For your offer. The men don't want to salute. They don't want to use rank. They don't want better food and they don't want more TV. They just want your resignation. So do I.
Winter: My resignation?
Irwin: You're a disgrace, Colonel! A disgrace to the uniform! You should not be allowed to retain your command.
Winter: [sarcastic] Well, I guess I better go pack!
Irwin: I think you should.
Winter: Tell me, Mr. Irwin. What's to stop me from simply placing you in the Hole, for say six months?
Irwin: Nothing. If that's the way you want to win.

BG Wheeler: So you thought he was gonna try to take me hostage?
COL Winter: Yes, sir, it was a precautionary move.
BG Wheeler: [Sharply] What the hell kind of grab-ass unit are you running here, Colonel?
[Winter looks insulted but pauses to compose himself]
COL Winter: Sir, at 11:58 this morning I received a letter stating that a group of inmates were planning on taking you hostage at 12:10. I thought it prudent to act immediately to ensure your safety-
BG Wheeler: Let me tell you something. I've been hearing some pretty disturbing things about what goes on in here. And now I'm hearing it from a man who I trust. And whose opinion I respect.
COL Winter: May I speak freely, sir?
BG Wheeler: Yes, you may.
COL Winter: With all due respect, General, I don't know what you may have been 'hearing'... but until you've spent some time in the yard with those animals, you have no idea what happens in there.
BG Wheeler: Point taken, Colonel. Nevertheless, if I hear one more story about a man dying under your command you are through here. Now, do you understand me?
COL Winter: Yes, sir.
BG Wheeler: All right. As far as Gene Irwin is concerned: it is my judgement he is as sane as you or I. I wish he wasn't; he is. Frankly I'd like nothing more than an excuse to get him out of here. But I see the only way that's gonna happen, is if you request it.
COL Winter: That is true, sir.
BG Wheeler: So- you just tell me you can't handle him. And he's gone.
COL Winter: [Smirking] Oh, I think I can handle him, sir.
BG Wheeler: [Coldly] You watch yourself, Colonel.

[Prisoner Irwin addresses inmates at the mess hall]
Eugene Irwin: We can no longer wear the uniform of a soldier. We forfeited that right and that includes me. I disobeyed an executive order, I violated my duty as a commanding officer. And eight men paid a catastrophic price. It's a mistake not easy to live with. So here I am just like you, a convicted criminal. Only difference between you and me is, I know I'm guilty. [prisoners laugh] So we're packed away here as prisoners. And one thing is certain, our captors have the power. They can humiliate us, they can beat us, they can lock us away in a dark hole for days on end, but there's one thing they cannot do. They cannot take away from us, who we are. And we are soldiers! And it is the one thing, the ONE thing that gives us a chance in here. And that nobody can take away!
Prisoner: Yeah that's right. [inmates cheer in assent]
Irwin: [reads paper] The Uniform Code of Military Justice. Grounds for Removal of a Stockade or Disciplinary Barracks Commander: One. Dereliction of duty.
Inmates: That's right. Yeah.
Irwin: Two. Criminal malfeasance. [Inmates murmuring agreement] Three. Noncompliance with procedural rules.
Inmate: Yeah.
Irwin: Four. Making false official statements. Five. Conduct unbecoming to an officer and gentleman.
Inmates: Yeah!
Irwin: Six. Cruelty and maltreatment of persons under his command. [Inmates shouting agreement, rattle tables] Seven. Command failure resulting in loss of control of facility. [folds back paper] Gentlemen, I propose that we seize control of this facility. [inmates cheer loudly]

COL Winter: Now... Give me my flag.
Irwin: It's not your flag.

Tag lines[edit]

  • A castle can only have one king.
  • No castle can have two kings.


  • Robert Redford - Lieutenant-General Eugene R. Irwin
  • James Gandolfini - Colonel Winter
  • Delroy Lindo - Brigadier-General Wheeler
  • Mark Ruffalo - Yates
  • Steve Burton - Captain Peretz

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about:

The Last Castle quotes at the Internet Movie Database