Loyalty and a Lost Boy
When Brenda Martin (Julianne Moore - Trust the Man) arrives in hospital blooded she says she was carjacked as drove in the projects and her young son was in the back of the car. Detective Lorenzo Council (Samuel L. Jackson - The Man) is both enforcer and protector in Armstrong, the area where Brenda says she was attacked, trying to manage the situation and keep order. But his position is questioned as he is assigned the case to search for Brenda's son as racial tensions start to grow with the police locking the area down. But something doesn't seem right and Lorenzo plans to find out what the truth is.
That synopsis of "Freedomland" makes it sound like a thriller about a missing child which embellishes the central storyline with one of racial tension. But in truth "Freedomland" ends up less about being a missing child thriller and more a series of interesting elements from the racial tension through to a group of mothers who specialize in looking for missing children. All of these elements are fascinating and the assembled cast are terrific but it ends up a movie which lacks focus almost seeming to be sidetracked by these other things instead of focussing on the mystery of the missing child.
So as to these elements well they are all good starting with the situation with Armstrong when the police swoop and lock it down as they go looking for the child and carjacker. You could say that well it's just another movie about racial tension brought on by the police exerting force in a one sided manner but then it is more. That more comes from Lorenzo's position because whilst a detective who's patch is Armstrong he manages the place, he knows what is going on and keeps the peace bringing in those who are in trouble in a more relaxed manner rather than using police force. So when the place gets locked down he finds his position as protector and enforcer coming under fire as the residents think he is siding with the police and the police think he is siding with the residents.
Then we have this interesting element of the group of mums who for 10 years have worked in helping in missing child cases from assisting in searches to helping get the truth from those involved by getting up close and personal. It is fascinating as is the emotional elements to it as we hear how losing a child can affect someone, needing closure to be able to movie life on.
The trouble is that these two elements and others including Brenda's own story of having lived life as a disappointment to others are all interesting but they dominate the first half of the movie rather than focussing on trying to find the missing child. This element in many ways only takes up the final third as we watch Lorenzo suspect something is not right and slowly finds out the truth and this is when "Freedomland" sadly disappoints. Whilst we get an absolutely brilliant performance from Julianne Moore during this part the sickening power of what we learn doesn't hit you like it should. I wanted to be left reeling instead I felt cold and detached and even more so by the time the movie ended with a less that subtle re-enforcement of racial tension.
What this all boils down to is that compartmentalize "Freedomland" and you have a lot of interesting elements and situations which stand alone work. But then when combined as one movie they don't and it becomes a movie which seems sidetracked by situations rather than focussing on the main story of a missing child.