Will Dormer (Al Pacino) is a LA Cop who, with his partner Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan) have been sent to Alaska to assist on a horrible crime – a young girl, beaten to death. However, he is in trouble, under investigation back home. Arriving in Alaska to the midnight sun and with so much on his mind, he can barely sleep. Then, whilst chasing a suspect, things so wrong, and he is in a world of pain and confusion, and the whole time, feeling like he may lose his mind from fatigue.
It’s a stunning film. Beautiful, clear Alaskan scenery. Clever storyline, well acted. Fabulous. I come and go with Al Pacino sometimes – but this here he gives such a strong performance. I know that sense of fatigue, the frustration that everything is getting on top of you, that you can barely hold your eyes open. He does everything but drool – and I guess toward the end it seems over the top, but I don’t mind. All I know is that I really, really wanted to get some sleep.
Then there is Robin Williams, so good at that gentle, disturbed kind of character.
Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank) has become a teacher for idealist reasons, inspired by her father, Steve (Scott Glenn) and supported by her husband, Scott (Patrick Dempsey). However, when she starts teaching in a rough school that has been involved in some kind of integration type scheme around the time of the LA Riots in the early nineties, even they think she may be too far out of her depth. Still, she believes she can make a change in their lives, and the connection is the holocaust (which most of the class had not even heard of).
At first I thought: here’s another one of those films about a rough school where an inexperienced teacher uses unconventional methods to connect to her students much to the annoyance of other staff and school management. But wait; this one is a true story and it is really good. Hilary Swank is fabulous, but it is the way she pushes the students despite their anger and fear and bravado to be more and to have a future beyond the gangs and the streets. And hey, teachers? If you’re looking to teach students resilience and self-belief, this is a good text. Students love it. And they’re sick of Remember the Titans (even though that is also a really good film, I reckon).
Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) wants to be a boxer and she wants to be trained by Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood). Eddie Dupris (Morgan Freeman), an ex-boxer trained by Dunn who retired after a fight that cost him his eye and works in Dunn’s gym, sees her passion and helps her out, and eventually Dunn agrees to take her on as his first female boxer.
I don’t think I like Clint Eastwood. There, I’ve said it. There seem to be many things in the world that it, for whatever reason, is sacrilege to dislike. Why? I don’t know. He’s considered to be an American icon, but I’m not American, so why should it matter if I like him or not?
For me, this film was quite tedious. Dunn wouldn’t train Fitzgerald because he didn’t trust himself after what happened to Eddie. She wears him down. He trains her. *Spoiler Alert* Something bad happens to her. He can’t forgive himself. Blah blah blah. I know I was supposed to cry and feel all kinds of emotions; perhaps that was just it. Perhaps it the attempts to manipulate my emotions were just too blatant. I just didn’t like it.
Million Dollar Baby won Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Hilary Swank), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Morgan Freeman) and Best Achievement in Directing (Clint Eastwood). Million Dollar Baby was nominated for Oscars for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Clint Eastwood), Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (Paul Haggis) and Best Achievement in Film Editing.
Based on truth, Conviction is the story of a working-class single mother who puts herself through university to become a lawyer to get her brother, Kenny, released from jail. Kenny was always a bit of a wild child, in and out of trouble, but is innocent of the murder that has put him behind bars.
This is one of those genres of stories that I hate to love – the wrongfully committed. I can’t explain why, although I suppose it is seeing an injustice overturned. Perhaps it is watching someone reach their goal; that would explain why I love a good sports film too.
Conviction has a very strong cast, not least of all Sam Rockwell (who I think I am developing quite a crush on after Seven Psychopaths) and my old favourite, Juliette Lewis. Oh, and Hilary Swank and Minnie Driver. It’s not the best true-life prison film I recall seeing, but it’s pretty darn good.