Conviction (15)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner14/01/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 107 mins

Solidly directed and superbly acted, this is an enjoyable true life drama that packs a powerful emotional punch.

What's it all about?
Directed by Tony Goldwyn, Conviction is based on a true story and stars Hilary Swank as Massachusetts wife and mother Betty Anne Waters, whose brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell) was convicted of murder in 1983 and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Convinced of his innocence, high school drop-out Betty Anne puts herself through school, college and finally law school in order to become a lawyer and work on her brother's case.

Betty Anne's devotion to the case takes a heavy toll on her marriage but she finally gets a break when – in the film's cheesiest sequence - she learns about DNA profiling and the existence of the Innocence Project, headed by Barry Scheck (Peter Gallagher). When Scheck agrees to help her case if she can track down the original DNA evidence, she enlists the help of her best friend and fellow classmate Abra (Minnie Driver) and sets out to find it.

The Good
Swank is excellent as the doggedly devoted Betty Anne, but the film is stolen by two terrific supporting performances by Sam Rockwell (who has a comedy naked-dance-in-a-bar scene if you like that sort of thing) and Minnie Driver (currently carving out a great niche for herself as a supporting player), who gets all the best lines as Abra and looks drop-dead gorgeous to boot. There's also superb support from the always excellent Gallagher and, in smaller but equally effective roles, Juliette Lewis (as a former girlfriend whose testimony helps seal Kenny's fate) and a chilling Melissa Leo as the vindictive cop who brought the charge against him in the first place.

Goldwyn's direction is solid and efficient throughout – it's also extremely well edited, most notably in the brief flashback sequences that tell us all we need to know about the powerful bond between Kenny and Betty Anne. The screenplay also takes some unusual but welcome decisions, such as ignoring the potential drama of Betty Anne's divorce and leaving the audience to fill in the details for themselves.

The Bad
The obvious problem with true-life miscarriage of justice stories is that you have a pretty good idea of how they're going to end, but Conviction compensates for that with emotionally engaging performances and by including two subtle scenes that introduce the element of doubt.

Worth seeing?
Conviction is an entertaining, well directed and superbly acted drama that could easily pick up some awards attention come Oscar time. Recommended.

Film Trailer

Conviction (15)
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Content updated: 18/11/2017 14:09

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