Release Date: September 18, 2015
Director: Jerry Jameson
Writer: Brian Bird (screenplay), Reinhard Denke, Ashley Smith (book)
Cast: Kate Mara, Mimi Rogers, Michael Kenneth Williams, David Oyelowo, Leonor Varela, Jessica Oyelowo, Matt Lowe, J. Karen Thomas, E. Roger Mitchell, Melissa Eastwood, Marlo Scheitler, Michael Mercaldi, Michael Harding, Fred Galle, Scott Parks, Sydelle Noel, Elle Graham, Leon Pridgen, Kevin J. O’Connor, Johanna Jowett
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 97 minutes
Production Company: BN Films, 1019 Entertainment, Brightside Entertainment, Itaca Film (co-production), Yoruba Saxon Productions, Paramount Pictures
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
I can only imagine the amount of fear surging through Ashley Smith’s body the night she was taken hostage by Brian Nichols. No one should ever have to succumb to that amount of terror for any reason. The most important aspect of this film its story-telling technique. Is a member of the audience put in the shoes of the victim or the antagonist? Do we know the mindset of the characters and what motivated their actions? Is there a clear moment that put them into the said predicament, or some notion that removed them from it? If these are the questions you want answers to, then you can find them only through your perspective of the movie. If you want a retelling of a true encounter, then you’re in luck, but if you want a moving and an inspiring story of a miracle that was promised in the trailers, you may have some difficulty finding it.
Ashley Smith (Kate Mara) is a recovering drug addict with a new future set with her lovely daughter. Brian Nichols (David Oyelowo) is a man who is down to his last play and is obsessed with seeing his new born child. Kate Mara did a great job playing her part, and I could feel all of her convictions. David Oyelowo also gave a good performance, skillfully displaying the many demons Brian Nichols had to deal with. The film did a decent job handling Brian’s breakout and his desperate attempts for freedom (or to see his newborn). I felt for Ashley in every way. It seemed like she was trying hard to turn her life around, but was still being dealt the wrong cards. Thoughts of “Why do bad things happen to good people?” took over my brain. Detective John Chestnut (Michael Kenneth Willams) also had his fair share of the screen time. I felt he was wrongly casted for the role as he did nothing for the overall film. He’s a fine actor, but this role wasn’t for him in any capacity. Every time he took the center stage, I was reminded of something that had nothing to do with the movie, which changed my mood from good to sour.
Only forty five minutes had passed, and I was ready to leave. The film lost focus, only concentrating on the investigation of robberies and murders, but not the hostage situation at hand. I said to myself, “This is not a cop show, so why am I seeing this?” I feel the actual source material of the “inspiring moment” was too brief to fill a ninety minute runtime. There’s no true meaning to the way the film chose only some particular events of the reality to represent. I’m baffled and confused about what actually happened. The trailers suggest that in Ashley and Brian’s darkest moments, they turn to God for guidance and truth. It’s this moment that turns their life around: them realizing a purpose, inspired from the book The Purpose Driven Life they read together. The main problem of the film was that this moment was never actually shown. The other issue is that it takes too long to get to the main point, spending a majority of time trying to create some hostage-thriller-drama film setting. I had to think back to find the true meaning when the credits started to roll. The entire movie is only ninety seven minutes long. Less than four minutes are spent with the characters addressing the book that changed their lives around—which is ridiculous.
During the conclusion, however, the real life footage of the victim Ashley appearing on Oprah was included. This was the only portion of the film in my opinion that was moving and somewhat motivating. The reenactment in the film was unsuccessful, failing to get across the intended point. Even during the brief four minute scene addressing the miracle book, the film only glossed over it without many dialogues. You can realize the sense of the power of God from this film, only if you knew the true story prior to watching the film. I couldn’t remember the real story from the headlines, so going into the movie, I thought I would be educated. However, I was only briefly informed, but haven’t received what’s necessary for any real substance. The point of this production was lost in the making of the film. It’s the unfortunate Ashley’s sentiments that may be misunderstood, but hopefully someday another director can give her story the justice it truly deserves.