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The Order (2003)

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A young priest is sent to Rome to investigate the troubling death of the head of his order.


Brian Helgeland


Brian Helgeland



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Heath Ledger ... Alex Bernier
Shannyn Sossamon ... Mara Sinclair
Benno Fürmann ... William Eden
Mark Addy ... Thomas Garrett
Peter Weller ... Driscoll
Francesco Carnelutti Francesco Carnelutti ... Dominic
Mattia Sbragia ... Apathetic Bishop
Mirko Casaburo Mirko Casaburo ... Little Boy
Giulia Lombardi Giulia Lombardi ... Little Girl
Richard Bremmer ... Bookstore Owner
Maria Cristina Maccà Maria Cristina Maccà ... Sister Franca (as Cristina Maccà)
Paola Emilia Villa Paola Emilia Villa ... Sister Marie
Rosalinda Celentano ... Faraway Eyes Girl
Alessandra Costanzo Alessandra Costanzo ... Eden's Maid
Paolo Lorimer ... Englishman


Alex Bernier (Ledger) is a member of an arcane order of priests known as Carolingians. When the head of the order dies, Alex is sent to Rome to investigate mysterious circumstances surrounding the death. The body bears strange marks on the chest which may or may not be the sign of a Sin Eater (Furmann), a renegade who offers absolution, last rites and therefore a path to heaven outside the jurisdiction of the church. Alex enlists the aid of his old comrade Father Thomas (Addy) and of a troubled artist (Sossamon) upon whom he once performed an exorcism. He soon finds himself plunged into a mystery only to find himself at the heart of it. Written by Brian Helgeland

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Every soul has its price. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violent images, sexuality and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »


Official Sites:

20th Century Fox


USA | Germany


English | Syriac | Aramaic | Italian | Latin

Release Date:

5 September 2003 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Sin Eater See more »

Filming Locations:

Caserta, Campania, Italy See more »


Box Office


$38,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$4,438,899, 7 September 2003

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Leagh Conwell also portrayed Heath Ledger's younger self in A Kinght's Tale See more »


The policeman tells Alex that Mara Williams has escaped. However, the character's name is Mara Sinclair. See more »


[first lines]
Alex Bernier: Every life is a riddle. The answer to mine is knowledge, born of darkness.
Alex Bernier: It wasn't always so. In the beginning, I still had questions. In the beginning, my mystery still remained.
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References Mod Squad (1968) See more »


Due Croci
Written by Adam Milo Smalley & Dan Powell
Performed by Crotch
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Helgeland took it upon himself to write, produce and direct this debauchery, which, in essence, means it is entirely his fault.
27 September 2003 | by JeffLatzerSee all my reviews

Sin Eating and DissOrder Jeff Latzer

Halfway through The Order, Brian Helgeland's soulless attempt at religious thriller, the viewer is confronted with a terrible reality: the headaches simply do not let up. In what can only be described as the year's worst cast reunion, Heath Ledger and his still-unknown pals from A Knights Tale are placed in such exotic locales as Rome and New York City; however the movie is so dark and inane that they might as well have filmed the whole mess in some abandoned church in New Jersey.

Seven years ago, director Helgeland became interested in the medieval idea of Sin Eaters, those who, during the greatest years of the Catholic Church's power, would consume the sins of the excommunicated upon their death, granting them absolution without redemption. So, Helgeland took it upon himself to write, produce and direct this debauchery, which, in essence, means it is entirely his fault.

In any event, the film consists of Heath Ledger playing Alex, a priest of the defunct Carolinian order who seems to have been trained in Catholic X-Files. There are many scenes where he and his sidekick, Thomas (Mark Addy) are confronted with demonic beings, to which they laughably hold out a cross and cry `In the name of God, go back to Hell!' With impeccable timing, Alex's psychologically troubled female flame of the past named Mara (Shannyn Sossamon) escapes from her institution at the same time his mentor dies in Rome under suspicious circumstances. Despite her fugitive status, Mara curiously arrives in Rome the next day with Alex, and so the holy quest for truth begins. Even before its release, caution signs littered this bleak production. Not only was it made unavailable to critics (a sure sign of film failure), but its original release date was January 17, 2002. It was reportedly delayed because special effect sequences were unintentionally funny. An anonymous production source told Variety magazine that the effect of sins leaving the human body looked too much like `calamari.' Apparently the wrong version was released because when the music builds and the noise intensifies during the sin-eating sessions, embarrassingly squid-like projections still spew from the dead.

One might assume that seven years with the subject and Helgeland could craft a script that wasn't beleaguered with clichés. But that simply isn't the case. Dialogue is kept at an astoundingly low intellectual level: `God exists, he just doesn't give a damn,' states the immortal Sin Eater (Benno Furmann). Alex's sidekick even utters a bad priest joke: `Women-can't live with 'em.can't live with 'em.' The recycled dialogue piles up to the point where one would think this were a WB action series, if it weren't for the R-rated blood and gore which is splattered throughout to overcome a weak plotline. Although Ledger has said he and the other returning cast members embraced a chance to work with Helgeland again, his acting speaks otherwise. He does attempt to inject feeling into his lifeless `Old Soul' of a character, but Ledger actually looks bored at times, and only seems to be half-trying when damning members of the undead. Sossamon's Mara is a one-note sad-sack that recycles the suicidal-female-artist role with hardly a note of inspiration or ingenuity. Kudos can regrettably be given to Helgeland, however, for his casting of Peter `Robocop' Weller as the shadowy cardinal, but only because it's a treat to see Robocop with an upside-down collar.

Adding to the list of things that make this movie hard to watch is the near-complete absence of adequate lighting. The characters run around New York City and Rome but all the places seem the same, for we can only see bits of them. In addition, the filmmaker seems to have used a curious white filter through most of the film, rendering any colors that do appear, drab and depressing. When the director is finally forced to bring the action out in the open--such as in the supposed climax in St. Peter's Cathedral-the blue screen and faux-architecture is pathetically phony, leaving the audience to wish in vain that this were the finale.

`Knowledge is the enemy of faith,' proclaims the immortal Sin Eater at one point in The Order. Knowledge, or more simply, thought is the enemy of this movie, for one is forced to question whether anyone used any through its making, or more importantly, in its post-production. The cold truth is that there is nary a redeeming quality to this supernatural sham; it wallows in the depravity and grime of its ancient subject matter and leaves the audience like the weary Sin Eater: sick and tired of all this and ready to move on.

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