by Louis Fowler
Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
Despite three leads that would normally grate me — Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley — Never Let Me Go is a beautifully subtle, ultimately moving science-fiction morality tale along the lines of Children of Men. It manages to place and question our humanity within a completely oppressive dystopic landscape. The aforementioned actors are genetically engineered clones whose only purpose in life is to provide replacement organ parts to keep the human life expectancy above 100 years. While, upon hearing that news, most of us would give up and quit caring, or, even more cinematically, try to start a revolution and tear down the system, the three realistically knows their limitations and just give in, quite heartbreakingly, to their fates. It's a bleak idea that offers no hope, but director Mark (One Hour Photo) Romanek and screenwriter Alex (28 Days Later) Garland masterfully paint a portrayal of a new slave class that will never have a Spartacus of their own.
Stone desperately wants to be a gritty, deadly serious character study about a hardcore prisoner and a pious corrections official, but as soon as Edward Norton wanders into frame, faux-swagger and comical cornrows in tow, all that goes out the window and it's best just to sit back and let the melodramatic histrionics take over. As you could guess, Norton is the titular Stone, an arsonist who not only has recently found religion, but a whole new embarrassingly offensive way to appropriate black culture and dialect. That must mean that a still-slumming Robert De Niro is the corrections official, who desperately wants to be described as “complex” yet is emotionally written in the most shorthand of obvious ways as he finds himself tempted by Stone's hyper-sexual wife Lucetta (Milla Jovovich, who should skip the drama and stick to the zombie-killing). Stone is a trite, manufactured attempt at Oscar glory. And, if you look the nominations, it even failed at that.
A headstrong woman sacrifices her life and marriage in order to go to law school and become an attorney in an effort to get her wrongly-convicted-of-murder brother out of prison. Sounds like the makings of a rather strong Lifetime made-for-TV movie, but with the gravitas of Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell behind it, it rises so far above that. This is a wholly inspirational story, and also quite the moving legal drama. It's roles like this where Swank really shines, becoming Betty Anne Waters, who is unwavering in her quest for justice. On the other hand, Rockwell always works best in a comedic playground, which makes his dramatic turn here all the more engrossing. Very rarely are movies like Conviction done in a way that is totally genuine. Conviction is perfectly happy to tell a story that needs to be told, and nothing more.