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'Amber Alert' Movie Review

About.com Rating 2.5 Star Rating
User Rating 3.5 Star Rating (11 Reviews)

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'Amber Alert' movie poster.
© Bluefields Entertainment
Chances are when you see an Amber Alert on the highway, your attention perks up for a minute or two with the thought that you might see the suspect car, knowing good and well it will never happen, but what if you actually did spot it? What if it was just a few yards in front of you? That's the intriguing concept behind Amber Alert, the latest in the now-ubiquitous "found footage" style of film.

The Plot

On October 4, 2009, Nathan "Nate" Riley and Samantha "Sam" Green, best friends since kindergarten, are on their way to Camelback Mountain in Phoenix to finish filming their audition tape for an Amazing Race-type reality show. With Sam's younger brother Caleb behind the camera, the trio is driving to their destination when Nate spots a gray Honda on the highway that just flashed on an Amber Alert sign. Sam calls the police, who say it could take 15 minutes for them to respond because of a glut of calls, so they decide to follow the vehicle.

While Nate figures the alert is probably just a custody dispute and suggests they let the police handle the case, Sam insists on pursuing the Honda. When it stops at a gas station and they see the driver go inside, she manages to peek inside the car and sees a little girl asleep in the back seat, making her all the more determined to continue the pursuit. The longer they give chase, the closer they get to rescuing the child, but the closer they also get to incurring the wrath of the sadistic criminal holding her hostage.

The End Result

Amber Alert's premise is immediately engaging, even if the film itself struggles to maintain the tense thrills inherent in the concept. Part of the problem lies in the dearth of plot, as the twist-less storyline threatens to become a one-trick pony, devolving for stretches into shouting matches between Nate and Sam as they decide whether to continue their pursuit or break it off. The banter becomes repetitive, making the underdeveloped, uninteresting characters all the more grating. To make matters worse, their questionable decision-making proves frustrating to the very end.

Still, the realism of the scenario hits home more than the typical found footage ghost or monster story, even though the logistics of having the protagonists so far away from the villain for the majority of the movie minimize any chance for scares. There's also an admirable Hitchcockian element that for stretches feels like Rear Window at 60 miles per hour. The acting, which is key for this type of film, is solid enough to maintain the naturalness, albeit the bickering, circular nature of the dialogue makes it all feel a bit too realistic at times. One glaring lack of realism, however, is the absence of police support -- an understandably necessary plot device that nonetheless feels false (at least, I hope it is) and adds (intentionally?) to the sense of helplessness viewers feel throughout the film.

Frustration may very well be the emotion first-time writer-director Kerry Bellessa wanted to instill, as it would certainly reflect the feelings of anyone whose loved one was kidnapped, but it doesn't make for a very entertaining experience -- especially when part of the frustration is the unfulfilled promise of the film. And at some point, you have to wonder if the whole thing feels a bit exploitive of the Amber Alert program.

The Skinny

  • Acting: C+ (Solid, considering the characters are flat and their relationship not fleshed out.)
  • Direction: C (Generates some tense moments, but they're too few and far between.)
  • Script: D+ (An interesting concept goes underdeveloped.)
  • Gore/Effects: C (None required in the plot.)
  • Overall: C (A wonderfully conceived but frustratingly executed thriller.)

Amber Alert is directed by Kerry Bellessa and is rated R by the MPAA for some disturbing content and sexual references. Release date: November 2, 2012 (on demand October 1).

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User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 2 out of 5
Real World Movies, Member JaDave1991

This was one of those movies that grips your heart at times. The kind of movie that fills you with hate, love, sadness to. This movie may fill you with rage toward the police force, the kidnapper, and maybe even one of the main characters. I must admit this movie isn't an entertaining one, I don't believe it was meant to be. This gives you some insight to a situation like this, to the drama and pressure of having this on your shoulders. In my opinion this shouldn't be made into a movie just out of respect for the ones who died.

1 out of 3 people found this helpful.

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