Fox // 2010 // 103 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // February 17th, 2011
An extraordinary journey of how far we go to fight for our family.
Tony Goldwyn's new drama Conviction takes you on an emotionally powerful ride you won't be able to forget that easily. Heartwarming and inspirational, the film tells the true story of Betty Anne Waters, who dedicated a huge chunk of her life to prove her imprisoned brother's innocence. Featuring a stellar cast and boasting a solid high-definition transfer, Conviction on Blu-Ray is undoubtedly a good investment.
Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby) plays Betty Anne Waters, a courageous woman who embarks on a challenging eighteen-year journey to prove her brother Kenneth (Sam Rockwell, Moon) was wrongfully convicted of murder. Determined to do whatever it takes to free him, Betty Anne decides to focus all her attention on earning a law degree so she can properly investigate Kenny's case. Little does she know at that time that completing school, maintaining a part-time job, and raising two boys by herself will drastically change the course of her life.
Written with a lot of attention to detail by Pamela Gray, Conviction is first and foremost a story about the exceptionally strong bond between two siblings. Dedicating almost two decades of your life to fight for one single cause requires a lot of love, and Betty Anne Waters has plenty of that for her brother Kenny. The film's first act does a pretty solid job at establishing their indestructible relationship, using flashbacks back to their childhood to show viewers why these characters would go above and beyond to help each other out. Interestingly enough, as adults, Betty Anne and Kenny have quite different personalities. She's the quiet, serious one, while Kenny is undoubtedly the more eccentric and vibrant of the two. Again, the movie does a fairly solid job highlighting their contrasting character traits.
Shortly after Kenny is sentenced to prison, Betty Anne's big mission begins, and while Conviction doesn't offer anything particularly out of the ordinary or refreshing in terms of storytelling, it still manages to fully capture our attention via a horde of intense, dramatic moments that keep the plot moving along and authentically document the high degree of emotional pressure both Betty Anne and Kenny are forced to deal with over the years. They both knew this wasn't going to be an easy ride, and with each new hurdle putting their plan in jeopardy, their morale quickly reaches rock bottom. These particular moments are the reason Conviction works so well, and it's all thanks to the film's amazing cast.
In fact, the movie would be a lot less compelling if it weren't for Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell. Swank truly is the ideal person to play Betty Anne Waters, and she does a fabulous job conveying a single mother's determination to achieve her goals no matter how big the obstacles. Her own family may be at risk of falling apart, but as far as Kenny's case is concerned, she's holding both him and herself together. Rockwell, on the other side, brings interesting layers to his character, whose impatience and fragile emotional state only worsens every time Betty Anne hits a setback in her search for crucial evidence. The prison scenes in particular show off their undeniable talents when it comes to realistic drama and sincere performances.
The film also benefits from strong supporting actors, including Minnie Driver as one of Betty Anne's classmates, Melissa Leo as a police officer with a big secret, and Peter Gallagher in the role of Barry Scheck from the Innocence Project. They all share great chemistry, and they all successfully manage to keep constant control of their performances. I can't help but repeat myself here: it's really the acting that makes Conviction such a thrilling experience.
Other than that, the film remains rather predictable throughout. Some scenes may appear a tad over the top in an effort to raise the dramatic tension, but other than that, the plot follows a rather simple storyline. What the movie has going for it is the fact that it sticks pretty closely to the true story it is based on. The real Betty Anne Waters was often present on set, working with Tony Goldwyn to assure the story is told the right way. Goldwyn certainly did a decent job at bringing that story to life, and Conviction is a beautifully shot drama that actually deserves more attention and recognition than it did during its theatrical release.
On Blu-Ray, the film looks fantastic. Twentieth Century Fox equipped the disc with a strong 1.85:1 transfer of the feature. The sharp, clean picture quality excels throughout, and the audio transfer delivers the goods as well. In terms of bonus features, the DVD includes a short but pretty emotional and insightful conversation between Goldwyn and the real Betty Anne Waters. It's too bad they didn't get the opportunity to sit down together for a full audio commentary.
Simple storyline and obvious happy ending aside, Conviction nonetheless qualifies as a superbly acted drama filled with a large range of emotions and depth. The depiction of the bond between Betty Anne and Kenny is really the heart of the movie, and Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell both make it worth your while. It's definitely a Blu-Ray edition I would recommend adding to your collection.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R