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Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Sneak vs. the St. Louis International Film Festival, Round Two (Saturday)

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2009 at 2:12 PM

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The Sneak makes a rare second appearance this week to continue her adventures at the St. Louis International Film Festival. See Tuesday's column for the first half of Round Two.

Shows: Stolen Lives, the much-hyped feature film starring local boy made mad, Jon Hamm, and Terribly Happy, the Danish Fargo.

Food: Some mysteriously bad beef jerky.

Difficulty: Surprisingly hard. Lines were long and in the open area of Plaza Frontenac in front of the theater, and a sold-out showing of Stolen Lives meant sitting in the very bright, very exposed front row.

I can tell you practically nothing about Stolen Lives without spoiling some part of the plot other than these two things: a) the description in the SLIFF program erroneously says it's about the discovery of the remains of a boy found buried alive; b) the last five minutes of the movie needs to fall into a bog.

OK, first about this buried-alive bit. I point this out to you only because it's not spoiling anything and it seriously changed my perception of the movie going in when I still thought it was accurate. Jon Hamm plays the tortured father of a long-kidnapped son; Hamm also happens to be a police officer. He has no idea what happened to his son, just that he vanished without a trace. He's prepared to do anything to find him when he gets a fragile clue connecting his current case, a boy found buried in a box 50 years earlier, to his son's disappearance.

This is basically Spoorloos with more James Van Der Beek.

Stolen Lives is no Spoorloos. For one thing, the kid wasn't buried alive, a fact which caused a hard reset of what I was expecting out of the movie about half an hour into it. The movie itself is a police procedural with all the police procedure cut out and only the moments of emotion that have little to nothing to do with investigating the case left in -- fitting because it's not really about a kidnapping but about a double-helix of deteriorating relationships, those that lead to one boy being buried (dead!) in a box in 1958 and those that result from another disappearing in 2000.

This movie's almost certainly going to get a wider release and become available on DVD. Rent it. It was good. Just watch out for the last five minutes, which make such an incredible, unbelievable mess out of what until then had been a tense and interestingly uncertain plot that it taints the rest of what was very good about the movie.

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