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Swank, Rockwell deliver gripping performances in 'Conviction'

"Conviction" Pitchforks: 4 out of 5 Starring: Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell Rated: R In theaters now

Having had a limited opening on Oct. 15, the new movie “Conviction,” staring Hilary Swank (“P.S. I Love You”) and Sam Rockwell (“Iron Man 2”), opens nationwide today. Based on the true-life story of one sister’s determination to free her brother from prison, “Conviction” delivers a pristine example of the kind of resolve one needs to overcome the most insurmountable of odds.

The emotionally engaging and heavy film highlights the friendship and unconditional love shared between siblings Kenny and Betty Anne Waters as they grew up in Ayer, Mass. The film begins with a series of flashbacks to childhood memories that, along with intertwining moments of the present, aptly define the struggles that these two endure on an everyday basis.

After her brother’s conviction, Betty Anne (Swank) tries to help him any way she can. Frustrated with how the legal system has failed both her brother and herself, this mother of two sets out to earn her GED, college degree and pass the bar exam to fix what everyone else has gotten wrong.

Sam Rockwell’s performance as her older brother, Kenny, is as compelling as his role in “Moon.” Together, Rockwell and Swank capture the essence of desperation and comfort that these two share given the extreme pressures that they each had to endure. Hilary Swank continues to prove herself as one of the most engaging and capable young actresses of her time.

Dusting off her Boston accent one more time, Minnie Driver (“Good Will Hunting”) returns with a role truly worthy of Oscar consideration. Similar to her previous films, in “Conviction” her performance captivates the audience with a completely genuine presence on screen. As Betty Anne’s straight-shooting best friend, Driver provides the audience with a character whose razor-sharp wit and humor are absolutely necessary during even the bleakest of moments.

One of the reasons the film is so deeply personal and moving is largely because of the work by director Tony Goldwyn (“Justified,” “Dexter”). Goldwyn does an excellent job of including the audience in the story with frames that feel as if you are standing in the same room as everyone on screen. The soundtrack also features a striking piano piece that simultaneously draws the audience in for more as it also holds you tighter when it all becomes too much.

“Conviction” is a moving piece dedicated to unwavering love and support. If you are familiar with the case then you know how it all ends. However, if you are not, then the film does an excellent job of keeping you guessing. In the end it blends everything together to give clarity and peace.

“Conviction” will keep you guessing the entire time as to who is and who is not guilty. In the end, your own understanding of what it takes to believe in something and to believe in someone else will be forever changed.

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