Lorenzo Council (Samuel L. Jackson) is a respected member of his community and well-known to the all-black neighborhood surrounding the Armstrong housing complex. Council has made it his job to watch over the tenants of the complex and tries to gently guide the ones he sees straying back on the path without intervention from outside the neighborhood. When he answers a call to talk to a woman that just stumbled into a nearby hospital he has no way of knowing that that system of keeping the outsiders out and insiders in is going to come crashing down around his ears.
The woman, Brenda Martin (Julianne Moore), claims that she has just been beaten and her car stolen with the only description she can give being “it was a black man”…she then hysterically reveals to Council that her four-year-old son Cody was sleeping in the back of the car at the time. Council literally flips out at the news, immediately calling the appropriate people to get an immediate search underway for the car and the missing boy while puffing on his inhaler. Armstrong was just across from the place the carjacking allegedly happened and so is immediately locked down by police and a thorough search done for the perpetrator or the child. No luck.
As the hours stretch into days of no luck in finding the missing boy or even the car people start to ask questions. It is put to Council, the officer who first gained Ms. Martin’s trust, to put the question to her in the most impartial way imaginable because ׆ out of 10 children are reported missing by the person who made them disappear”. Is it possible that behind this grieving mother there is a coldhearted b***h who murdered her own child? Or perhaps she’s hidden the boy herself for the purpose of gaining recognition and attention for herself? Whatever the case Lorenzo is convinced that Brenda is not on the level and that a lot more went on than she’s seen fit to share with law enforcement.
Wow, the first thing I have to say is that Julianne Moore sure can act when she has a mind to do so, though her role in this film is very similar to that of her role in The Forgotten as a grieving mother who has lost her child…with the exception that her character in that other movie became fiercely protective of her daughter’s memory and fought endlessly to bring back the person she was sure existed while her Freedomland character lapsed into resigned grief. Moore has that ability to act in such a way that you just can’t be sure if her character is in earnest or is teetering on the edge of madness and in this particular movie did a great job of acting like she was acting, a quality that will make more sense when you watch the movie.
Samuel L. Jackson is another person with amazing talents once you get him out of the character mold he seems to have created for himself of the tough-guy action character who has few lines short of screaming orders and whose main purpose is to shoot people and make a convincing commando. In this film he got the chance to show off some of those talents, though I’m afraid not a whole lot…I think he did very well with what he was handed but, unfortunately, he wasn’t handed much.
I feel like this story just tried to reach for too much, tried to make a strong statement on two different subjects and so failed in both. The main line in the description of the movie talked about the racial tension that was stirred up by “a black man did it” and the subsequent actions by the police that probably would not have been permitted in a white neighborhood. Unfortunately what the movie tries to convey on this point is relayed through a series of disjointed scenes and events that overall fails to bring the point home.
The other point, that one dealing with missing children and the agony of those left behind when something happens to a child is brought to a conclusion much better, but I feel the doling out of sympathy where I didn’t think it was due at the end really blurred the point and lessened the impact of the message they tried to convey.
Despite the failures in the script and directing the movie was well-acted and until the last half-hour didn’t seem like it would fail…it was good, it kept my attention very well and intrigued me to know what the end would be like as it does make a pretense of making you guess…but then the ending and the general tying up of loose ends failed to deliver the kind of climax promised by the earlier parts of the story.
Overall this could have been an awesome movie but was brought down by its ending, it seemed more like something somebody thought up and had time to plan the first 2/3 to perfection and then threw together the last bits helter-skelter to hit deadlines and destroyed the value of the first part of the movie. I have to say I really felt let down by the way the ending was done and I think the exact same events could have been used but put together to form a much more comprehensive ending that actually drives home the points it’s trying to make instead of not-so-gracefully ushering them to the sidelines.