AMBER ALERT/ I HAVE YOUR CHILDREN
Canada, 2016, 90 minutes, Colour.
Alaina Huffman, Damon Runyon, Kyle Mac, Barry Flatman, Cameron Brodeur.
Directed by Philippe Gagnon.
This is an above-average entertaining drama.
The ingredients may be familiar but the film is well written and Alaina Huffman in the central role is a very strong and convincing presence – a bit along the lines and look of an Angelina Jolie.
Amber is the name of the central character, a policewoman, skilled in intervening in difficult cases, would-be suicides. This is illustrated as the film opens. However, she is also a single mother, devoted to her young son who also has to spend some time in the shared custody with his father and his father’s new girlfriend.
Amber is very busy, is alarmed that her former husband might ask for full custody, is conscious that she is committed to her police work (and that she did have an affair with one of her co-workers, a surly man who is now a rival and critical of her in their work). The police chief is her father-in-law.
The key case for the Amber alert concerns a young man, mentally disturbed, but an IT whiz, who is really upset that his mother, a long-time bus driver who paid her pension, is now very ill and has been refused compensation by the insurance company because her illness is an exception beyond the range of the contract. The young man takes a bus, picks up some children, including the daughter of one of the insurance company assessors, and creates a hostage situation, asking for the exact amount that should have been paid by the insurance company.
While Amber becomes involved, there are disputes about how the situation should be handled and the hostage children. However, Amber is moved by the situation of the children, talks with the insurance assessor mother urging her to persuade the company to pay, goes into the warehouse where the young man has set himself up, allows herself to become a hostage.
There is the expected tension, the wishes of the squad to use a sniper or to attack the building while Amber advocates discussion.
There is an interesting twist at the end of the film in terms of the behaviour of the young man and his mother.
1. Crime drama? Family drama? Police drama?
2. The town of Hartford, the police precincts and police work, mediators and talking down people from suicide attempts, abductions, hostages and negotiations? The family background, school, home, shared custody, prospects of divorce? These elements combined into the one story? The musical score?
3. The title, the ambiguity with Amber’s name and the crime alert? Amber as a strong character, her work in the police, her marriage and its failure, the affair with Hamilton and the later antagonism, her ex-husband and his not having work, leaving, with a younger woman, the prospect of divorce, custody? Amber and her devotion to her son, the pressures of work, especially in picking him up from school, meals, getting back from his father? The background to the abduction case?
4. The introduction to Amber, the bride on the ledge, talking with her, her grief, the groom, his mistake in the name, Amber and her tough talk, talking the bride down? The reaction of the chief, the irony that he was her father-in-law? Hamilton and his work with her – and his taunting her about the case where her intervention failed and there was a suicide?
5. Amber and her son, the bonding together, the visit to her ex-husband, his girlfriend, the discussions?
6. The story of Callum, his mental condition, cleaning the buses, his mother as a bus driver, her cancer, surgery, the role of the insurance company, not paying, quibbling over her illness being an exception, her having to sell the house? The mother seemingly calm, concerned about her son, her son’s anger?
7. Callum, driving the bus, picking up the children, the abduction? In the warehouse? The concern of the mother who was the insurance assessor? Her interventions, phoning the company, ultimately willing to expose their mean-minded policies and behaviour? Getting the money for the ransom?
8. Callum, his home, his IT expertise? Setting himself up in the warehouse? The sounds of the children playing? The police, the chief, strategies? Amber and her interventions? Hamilton and his being ready with his squad to go? Inserting the camera into the room and Callum’s threats? Amber going in, the rays, his gun, turning it off? The issue of sandwiches for the children? Hamilton and his being ready to have a sniper shot?
9. Amber, her being willing to be a hostage, with the bombs, the issue of the money, delivering it?
10. The character of Callum, his mother coming to the phone, urging him on? Being taken away in the ambulance?
11. The finale, the exploding bus, the irony of the children never having been there, the recording, their being safe elsewhere? The ambulance, Callum and his mother escaping with the money?
12. Audience interest in the abduction sequences, hostages and the discussion – and the irony of Callum and his mother and their plan?