"Relying on God's Grace"
FREEDOMLAND is an emotionally charged drama about an alleged carjacking, a missing child and an inner-city neighborhood torn apart.
Late one night in New Jersey, an injured white woman staggers dazed into the emergency room. After treatment for shock and hysteria, Brenda Martin tells Dempsey police detective Lorenzo Council of being carjacked by a black man on the isolated strip of undeveloped land that separates Dempsey’s urban housing projects from the blue collar town of Gannon, where she lives. Still dazed and confused, Brenda is questioned further by Lorenzo. She finally tells him that her four-year-old son, Cody, was asleep in the back seat.
Lorenzo still doesn’t quite believe the confused woman’s story, but he enlists the help of a missing child activist and the two communities to search for the missing child. While the activist tries to see if Brenda isn’t hiding something else, the white police from Gannon enrage the black populace of the housing projects by barricading the community until the child is found. Long-simmering racial tensions between the two towns surface, making Lorenzo’s job that much harder.
FREEDOMLAND is more of a social drama than a police thriller. Samuel L. Jackson plays Det. Lorenzo Council in his usual solid manner. Julianne Moore’s as the distraught mother, Brenda Martin, goes from hysterics to quiet sullenness to dazed confusion. Most viewers will be able to tell right away that she’s hiding something and some may even be annoyed at her character. Her character and performance is the weakest part of the movie, but Edie Falco stands out as the missing child activist, Karen Colluci. Miss Falco’s was the most believable performance among the principal characters. The relationship between Lorenzo and the distraught mother just doesn’t work and is sometimes confusing and hence annoying.
Better direction and editing might have improved FREEDOMLAND. The script cries out for a more idiosyncratic cinematic style that’s not so straightforward but would still draw the viewer into the drama. The unique ways in which Spielberg shoots the action scenes in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and MUNICH are examples of how this might be done.
On the positive side, FREDOMLAND has a strong moral worldview. It also has some strong Christian content. For example, Lorenzo, the movie’s hero, talks about his Christian faith at least twice. In the first instance, Lorenzo talks about the will of God and tells the distraught mother to “let go and let God.” In the second instance, Lorenzo talks about the grace of God being able to redeem people from past sins and help them set up a new life.
These positive elements could have been stronger, of course. They are also marred by a significant amount of very strong foul language and by the movie’s gritty portrayal of social and family upheavals. The movie strongly implies that God’s grace provides the answer, but it offers too few Christian details.
(BB, CC, Pa, LLL, VV, D, M) Strong moral worldview with strong Christian content where protagonist mentions his Christian faith, including talks about God's grace and tells one person, "Let go and let God," marred by heavy use of foul language and scenes of family and parental dysfunction; 76 obscenities (including many "f" words), five strong profanities and six light profanities); strong action violence includes scenes of rioting, angry confrontations, police in riot gear hit people and rioters hit police, man gets whacked on head, flashback shows woman falling and cutting her palms on shards of glass, images of woman's bloody hands, and people are shown where body of young boy is buried; no sex; no nudity; no alcohol; some smoking and talk about young man having men arrested for possessing marijuana (but no illicit drugs depicted); and, unwed mother is clearly not too bright and often distraught, bearing false witness is rebuked and God's grace is offered to the sinner, and racial tensions break out among white and black citizens, including police officers.
FREEDOMLAND is an emotionally charged drama about two neighborhoods torn apart by a missing child case. One night, an injured white woman staggers dazed into the emergency room. After treatment, Brenda Martin tells Dempsey, New Jersey police detective Lorenzo Council of being carjacked by a black man on the isolated undeveloped land separating Dempsey’s housing projects from the blue collar town where she lives. Dazed, Brenda tells Lorenzo that her four-year-old son, Cody, was asleep in the back seat. Lorenzo doesn’t believe her story, but he enlists the help of a missing child activist and the two communities to search for Cody. Meanwhile, long-simmering racial tensions between the two towns surface, making Lorenzo’s job harder.
FREEDOMLAND falls just short of being successful, but it has a strong moral worldview. It also has some strong Christian content. For example, Lorenzo, the movie's hero, talks about his Christian faith at least twice. These positive elements are marred by a significant amount of very strong foul language and by the movie's gritty portrayal of social and family upheavals. The movie strongly implies that God's grace provides the answer, but it offers too few Christian details.