I didn’t really expect much from this movie. I’m not the target marget, I just like Sam Rockwell.
Hilary Swank is a fair enough actor though she has gotten the reputation of being a sure of sign of movie built to win Oscars–I’m pretty sure this was because of Million Dollar Baby, then Freedom Writers, then Amelia.She has a tendency to make heart-swelling movies based on true stories. Conviction seemed no different. It had all the necessary ingredients for her to take on the project and subsequently act her ass off as she is known to do.
At times, though, what overshadows the actors’ performances is that the film itself is stylistically flat. Everything is in its right place and there are few risks taken in terms of covering a scene. Given that Tony Goldwyn comes from television directing (L-Word, Grey’s Anatomy, Dexter), it makes sense that his style is tight and economical. He’s used to making an episode in a week as opposed to a film in a couple of months, which means that he’s instinctive–and it shows–but he takes very few risks.
That doesn’t mean that it’s a bad film. Not at all. The fact that it was written as a mystery film s gives the film the ability to stand up against time. Instead of conceding to the audience’s knowledge of the ending since the movie in 2005 and going the lazy route of allowing everything to hang out in black and white, they build the film around questions so that the story moves forward with the audience wondering if Sam Rockwell’s Kenny Waters did or did not kill the person. I didn’t know the ending going in, and I was kept in the dark the entire time.
An example of this is towards the beginning when we first become familiar with the trial. Instead of it being objectively explained, it is shown in a series of flashbacks that Hilary Swank is recounting to Minnie Driver. The subjectivity of the narrator allows for there to be questions. It’s clear that she loves her brother, so of course her recounting is going to deem him as innocent and the charges as erroneous.
But what is the truth? This is the question that drives the movie and is one that is kept close until it is meant to be revealed towards the end.
I’m also incredibly grateful that this film is under two hours long. As I was driving home, I realized that there were a few elements that were glossed over, but, had this movie been 3 hours long, it would’ve felt as if it were dragging on forever and more about Swank’s character as a person than her as a sister and someone who loves her brother enough to believe in his innocence.
Above all else, this is a hopeful film–one to prove that is hope yet in both family and the justice system. A perfect movie for election day.