Conviction

 

Conviction

Written by Pamela Gray

Directed by Tony Goldwyn

2010

 

Cast:

Hilary Swank

Sam Rockwell

Minnie Driver

Peter Gallagher

Melissa Leo

Ari Graynor

Clea DuVall

Juliette Lewis

 

Production:

Theatrical: Pantheon Entertainment

Video: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

 

Video:

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC

Disc Size: 34.53 Mbps

Feature Size: 29.92 Mbps

Ave. Video Bit Rate: 30.84

Runtime: 107 minutes

Chapters: 28

Region: Free

 

Audio:

English DTS-HD MA 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Subtitles:

English SDH & Spanish

 

Extras:

• Tony Goldwyn and Betty Anne Waters in Conversation

• Previews

 

Presentation:

Amaray Blu-ray case

Release Date: February 1, 2011



Product Description:

The unshakable bond between a brother and sister is at the heart of this real-life drama.  Two-time Academy Award® winner Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell deliver unforgettable performances in this incredible true story that co-stars Minnie Driver, Juliette Lewis and Peter Gallagher. Swank plays Betty Anne Waters, a young woman whose world is shattered when her beloved brother Kenny (Rockwell) is convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Steadfastly convinced of his innocence, Betty Anne embarks on an 18-year journey to set Kenny free, though, aside from her determination to become a lawyer, she has little idea to start with how she might do that.


     


The Score Card

 

The Movie : 7.5

Despite that the cover for the Blu-ray boldly announces awards from the National Board of Review and the Toronto and London International Film Festivals, the on-line review service Metacritic gives the movie only a 60 score (from 32 critical reviews).  Claudia Puig of USA Today and Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly both liked the film, citing an inspirational story and a brilliant cast.  Mick LaSalle (SF Chronicle), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun Times) and Rex Reed (New York Observer) all gave it reasonably high marks as well (75), but both Betsy Sharkey (LA Times) and A.O. Scott (NY Times) were not thrilled (50).


     

 

Damning Conviction with faint praise, A.O. Scott writes: It would be easy to dismiss Conviction on the ground that it plays like a made-for-television movie, but the truth is that, as often as not, movies made for the small screen are better than this: braver, darker, more willing to explore odd corners of feeling.


On the other hand, LaSalle notes that:  Swank's purity of essence is nicely paired with Rockwell, who is more arch and complicated and would look guilty doing mission work in Mumbai. It's a special quality Rockwell has. . . Casting Rockwell and Swank as brother and sister is an invitation for us to wonder at sibling relationships, how people can be completely different on the surface and yet have a point of connection that's mysterious and unbreakable. . . Betty Anne, from a small town in Massachusetts, with no money and no connections, surrounded by people who are broke and hardscrabble, devises a plan that will take years to come to fruition, if ever. It's an amazing story, one that would seem too far-fetched if it weren't true.


     


After watching Tony Goldwyn and Pamela Gray’s movie, I am inclined to feel that every American should have the experience of being arrested and brought before a judge at least once in their life.  There’s something eerie about what comes across as a foreign language; its pronouncements, too, are so arcane as to require a defendant to ask “what just happened?”  And even though this nation is founded on a system of laws and the presumption of blind justice, it is not always the case.   We trust in the dispassionate execution of our laws, but it is not always so.  Ask many a black man.  So it might astonish the television audience of “Law & Order” that in the 1980s in a state as liberal as Massachusetts a white man could be found guilty of murder on circumstantial evidence and secondhand testimony of an admission of guilt by the defendant.


     


The challenge for director Goldwyn and writer Gray is something like it was for James Cameron in making a movie about a ship whose fate is a foregone conclusion.  But then Cameron got to create a fictional overlay to keep our interest and manipulate suspense.  Ms. Gray, on the other hand, is required to stick pretty much to the facts, especially as they concern certain accusations on the part of those who convicted Mr. Waters.  The focus of their story, instead, and smartly I think, is on the trials and tribulations of the brother and sister, and only in the final reels do they wind out deeper and more complicated truths that make for an even more powerful conclusion that the overturning of Kenny’s wrongful conviction, a fact that everyone in the audience knows before they purchase their ticket.


     


Image : 9/9

Fox presents this drama in their best journeyman style: the image is coherent, sharp, with true colors, proper contrast and natural flesh tones.  There are some close-ups, as when Betty visits her brother in prison that her hair looks absolutely perfect - something that even high definition has a great deal of difficulty reproducing accurately.  As expected from a new movie the source elements are pristine, neither are there any transfer issues of concern.


     

 

Audio & Music : 8/7

The audio mix, as we would hope and expect for a drama of this sort, does not bring attention to itself, and instead is mostly concerned with making the dialogue clear, with only a smattering of atmospherics to engage the surrounds.  The exception is for the music, whether part of the score or “live” as at a bar, where the soundstage opens up with convincing effect.


     

 

Extras : 2

Fox offers only the slimmest of pickins here, though all in 1080p.  There are a handful of previews for other Fox films, including Black Swan, Cyrus, 127 Hours and Never Let Me Go.  But the only piece related to the film is a ten-minute conversation between director Tony Goldwyn and the real life heroine of his movie, Betty Anne Waters.  They set the stage for her story and what it took to get the film made.  A commentary would have been nice.


     

 

Recommendation : 7

While the courage and tireless efforts of Betty Anne Waters and the sincerity of Hilary Swank’s portrayal is never in doubt, there is also no doubt this is Sam Rockwell’s movie.  His casting, as Mick LaSalle points out in his review, is a stroke of genius, because he can and does make his guilt so obvious merely by his look and the way he carries himself - of course, it helps that the audience already knows him as the child killer of The Green Mile.  Rockwell is further aided, framed you might say, on the one hand by the inimitable Hilary Swank, and on the other by the thankless efforts of 2010 Oscar nominee, Melissa Leo (no stranger to law enforcement - cf. Homicide: Life on the Street) as the arresting officer whose equally dogged efforts result in Kenny’s conviction.


I’m not sure just how rewatchable this movie is, but it does what it sets out to do and does it well.  Save its sparce bonus features, Fox’s Blu-ray is a worthy supporting actor.  Warmly Recommended.


     

 

Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

February 5, 2011


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