Now it makes sense why Fox didn’t screen The Order a few months back for critics: The film doesn’t make a lick of sense! Poor Brian Helgeland. It should be a sin for a director to take material this nonsensical so seriously. “In the beginning, my mystery still remained,” bemoans pin-up Carolingian priest Alex Bernier (Heath Ledger), inexplicably called “Spaghetti O” by his best buddy Thomas (Mark Addy). With the help of his friend and a psychotic mental patient, Mara (Shannyn Sossamon), who tried to shoot him during an exorcism (don’t ask, the film isn’t willing to explain), Alex goes to Rome to investigate the events surrounding the death of his kooky father-figure Dominic (Francesco Carnelutti). Helegand’s Europe is an aesthetic heresy. There’s a trashy MTV quality to the film that betrays the director’s serious obsession with Alex’s faith. The film cribs from the best Catholic spookers (look for the Exorcist fonts and Omen demon children) but really owes more to the likes of Stigmata. After doing some quickie research and butting heads with a series of human placards (most non-memorably an “Apathetic Bishop”), Alex makes his way through a series of dining halls, museums, and Catholic techo clubs. In the end, he discovers that sin takes the shape of a CGI octopus when it leaves the body and has to decide whether he wants to eat it or not. “Sunflowers are a brilliant mistake,” says the doomed Mara. “Like you and me,” replies the wise Alex. Blood in. Blood out. Eye roll.
Because widescreen and full screen versions of the film have been packed into the same DVD, don’t be surprised by the compression artifacts. Blacks are inky and skin tones are lovely, but edge halos are perpetually present. This is most unfortunate during some of the beautiful-looking night scenes. The surround track is nothing to scream about, but it’s crystal clear nonetheless.
Let’s just say this: You’d never know by listening to Brian Helgeland’s commentary track that he has actually won an Academy Award. Not as crazy are a string of dailies and seven deleted scenes, all more or less better than any scene that actually did make it into the film. Though many of these scenes flesh out a few emotional hang-ups and explain a view visits, Helgeland thought they were "more than we needed to know." Also included here is the film’s theatrical trailer
The Order preaches that "Sunflowers are a beautiful mistake, like you and me."