It was only for the briefest of instances that Tom Adkins (Jon Hamm) turned his back on his son to use a diner restroom but by the time he turned back around it was too late; the young boy had already vanished from sight.
Yet eight years after his son's disappearance, Detective Tom Adkins is still unable to believe that his son is most likely deceased and will therefore not come strolling back home to stay in the room Tom and his long frustrated wife have kept like a shrine for the child who by now would technically be an adult.
However, all of the uncertainty surrounding the boy's disappearance comes flooding back into view when local construction workers uncover a body of a child at a nearby site. And even though the coroner assures Tom that the skeleton has no possibility of being that of his son's since it's been buried for fifty years, Tom can't help but open up a decades old investigation considering how many similarities there are between his still missing son and the young Wakefield boy who'd been killed back in 1958.
Unraveling dual threads with overlapping strands and inventive camera and editing trickery, the film's two time periods run parallel with one another as we move away from Tom's journey towards the truth with what really happened in the past after heartbroken, struggling family man (Josh Lucas, who also co-produced) tries to ensure the best future for his three sons following his wife's death.
Leaving the two oldest boys with another family while he looks for work, a place to stay and/or a possible wife along with his mentally challenged son, Lucas' Matt Wakefield soon gets a job as part of a construction crew on the very land where the body of his son will be uncovered five decades later.
While the richness of the performances by the two leads along with a chilling, against-type portrayal by James Van Der Beek help ensure authenticity in this film that's based on a true story, one can't help but grow a bit confused by some of the aspects of lazy storytelling as we're left to piece things together or figure out just how characters know each other or what is being inferred from time to time.
While the mystery thriller aspects are to be expected and work very well, along with some truly creative cinematographic ways of giving us an instant sense of time and place thanks to color palette as well as connective tissue like a car driving off the screen from one setting to arriving at another, some sharper writing would've aided in the movie's attempts to work as a tense psychological drama.
Nonetheless Stolen impresses as a promising debut from director Anders Anderson and a great vehicle for Hamm to introduce Mad Men viewers to a different side of the actor even if Van Der Beek is the one who will leave an impression so unsettling that none of the viewers will want to turn their back on him... even for an instant.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.