Conviction (2010)

(On DVD, June 2011) There’s something almost earnestly old-fashioned about Conviction, a film that has few scruples about belonging to the “inspiring story based on true events” category.  Here, a woman puts herself through law school for the express purpose of freeing her wrongfully accused brother.  It ends pretty much like you’d think.  Still, Conviction is more polished than you’d expect: the setup is handled efficiently, and the early structure of the film seamlessly meshes two levels of flashbacks to explain how the characters got where they are.  This is the kind of film that showcases actors, and Hilary Swank is very good in the lead role, with a strikingly transformed Sam Rockwell as her wrongfully accused brother.  I almost always, for some reason, enjoy seeing Minnie Driver on-screen, and she gets a lot of screen time as a sidekick to the protagonist’s legal investigation.  For a film of its genre, it’s curiously restrained until the very end, and clever about how it takes us from one detail of the case to the next.  It doesn’t necessarily spring Conviction up and away from typical TV-movie-of-the-week fare (it will live best on DVD than it did in theaters), but it does pretend to be a dramatic awards contender, and it’s not misplaced in those ambitions.  It all piles up to amount to a satisfying film, but not an overly memorable one.

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