'Freetown': Film Review
Garrett Batty's drama recounts the real-life tale of six African Mormon missionaries fleeing war-torn Liberia.
Based on a true-life tale, this second feature from Garrett Batty recounts the story of six Mormon missionaries fleeing civil war-torn Liberia in 1990. Desperately attempting to escape the clutches of a rebel leader who has particularly targeted them because one of them is a member of the ruling clan, the Krahn, that is being systematically wiped out, they attempt to make the harrowing journey to the safe refuge of Freetown in neighboring Sierra Leone. But despite the storyline's inherent drama, the meandering Freetown, much like the characters it depicts, takes far too long to get to its destination.
Leading the African "Elders" in their escape is local church member Abubakar (Henry Adofo), who finds his progress hampered by their continuing to proselytize even as their lives are in ever-increasing danger. Their sole means of transportation is his bright red compact car containing little gas, which they cram themselves into as if they were clowns in a circus.
The screenplay, by Batty and Melissa Leilani Larson, handles its religious themes in relatively subtle fashion, concentrating on the suspenseful story mechanics rather than delivering bluntly imparted messages. Still, there is much talk of miracles, as the young men defy seemingly insurmountable odds including numerous roadblocks, rebels who demand payment for allowing them to pass through and the maniacal determination of their leader (Bill Myers), who menacingly asks everyone with whom he comes into contact, "Are you a Krahn?"
Although suffused with welcome touches of sly humor, the proceedings never gather the necessary dramatic momentum. With most of the violence discreetly rendered off-camera, the danger is insufficiently conveyed, although the Ghana-shot film successfully evokes the war-torn African milieu.
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Unconvincingly acted with the exception of Adofo, who brings a convincing intensity to his performance as the young men's would-be savior, Freetown — much like the director's similarly themed previous effort, 2013's The Saratov Approach, about missionaries kidnapped in Russia — is unlikely to find much of an audience beyond its supportive Mormon base.
Production: Three Coins Productions, Go Films
Cast: Henry Adofo, Phillip Adekunle Michael, Michael Attram, Alphonse Menyo Bill Myers
Director: Garrett Batty
Screenwriters: Melissa Leilani Larson, Garret Batty
Producers: Adam Abel, Garret Batty
Director of photography: Jeremy Prusso
Production designer: Albert Aidoo Bervell
Editors: Connor O'Malley, S. Mckay Stevens
Composer: Robert Allen Elliott
Casting: Agbeko Mortty
Rated PG-13, 113 minutes