Well, the Idea Was Good.
Main Cast: Chris Hill and Summer Bellessa
Director: Kerry Bellessa
This was a movie that won me over with its premise immediately. A group of friends (in this case two friends–Nate and Sam–and Sam’s brother, Caleb) spot a car on the highway that matches the car described in an Amber Alert so they decide to follow it. There’s great potential in that idea. It’s one of those classic “what would you do” ideas. In this case, Nate (Chris Hill, The Dark Knight Rises) and Sam (Summer Bellessa) (and Caleb) are recording everything because they’re actually in the middle of filming their audition tape for a reality show on television. From the sound of it, it’s probably “The Amazing Race” or some cheap fictional knock-off.
So they’re headed to the final location of the day to shoot the last bit of footage for their tape when Nate thinks the car in front of them is likely the car on the Amber Alert they just passed. Sam sees the license plates match, so she calls the police, then tells Nate to keep following the car until the cops show up.
They trail the car to a gas station where, while the driver is inside, Sam peaks in the windows and sees a little girl in the back seat, sleeping. The window is cracked, so she tosses her mic pack into the seat so they can pick up anything the driver says on the camera Caleb is still using to film everything.
Soon the driver pulls over to the side of the road and asks if they’re following him because of the Amber Alert. Big misunderstanding, he says. She’s my daughter, I was a day late bringing her home, no problem. You can talk to her if you want.
No, Nate and Sam say, it’s okay. And they go on their way.
Then the mic in the back seat picks up the man telling the little girl she’ll never see her parents again. Nate and Sam turn around and try to follow him again, but are pulled over by the police until they explain what’s going on–they’ve been following the car at this point for an hour and a half, have called the police several times with their location, but so far no one has shown up to intervene–the cop takes off in pursuit. Nate is happy and ready to go home, but Sam says she wants to stick around and see this through to make sure the girl is okay.
When they talk to the police later, they learn the cop who pulled them over was pulled off the Amber Alert chase. The guy is still out there. Now Nate and Sam, with Caleb in tow, still filming, decide to track the guy down themselves and make sure he’s brought to justice.
This was a tense movie at, at times, difficult to watch. It wasn’t anything gratuitous or violent that made it tough–NOTHING is shown, so for all you “oh how typical, a child in jeopardy” people out there, that’s not the focus of the story, only the catalyst and–spoiler: no harm comes to the girl, so relax! Anyway, if you’re watching a movie called Amber Alert, what exactly were you expecting???–but the tension of the situation itself. The premise alone dictates that you watch this movie with bated breath, shivering with antici
Unfortunately–and who didn’t see an “unfortunately” coming?–the premise is about the only thing this movie got right.
Written by Joshua Oram and directed by Kerry Bellessa (husband of lead actress Summer Bellessa) Amber Alert is one bad decision after another, followed by plot holes galore and completely unrealistic actions. First off, they were following the car for an hour and a half, had called the cops at least three times, giving them their EXACT location, and the cop who pulls them over is the FIRST cop they’ve seen all day? I know slow response times are a punch line and all, but this is an Amber Alert, posting on highway signs every few miles.
At the gas station, instead of waking the girl up by banging on the window and yelling for her, Sam whispers through the crack to her. Why the whispering? The license plates match the one listed on the Amber Alert. And when they pull over and the driver confronts them, instead of verifying the story with the police or the guy’s ex-wife or, even better, the little girl whose RIGHT THERE, in the back seat, they take him at his word and say ok, sorry for the mix-up, but, well, your car was on the Amber Alert.
As stupid as these people were, they didn’t deserve police backup. Anyone that stupid–especially two of them in one place like that–need to be left alone to fend for themselves.
Since the story is told as found footage, and Caleb is in the back seat filming as Nate drives and Sam sits in the front passenger seat, about 80% of the movie is a static shot of the space between Nate and Sam, much of it their backs or profiles when they turn to talk to each other. That’ll hold the interest of exactly no one. And most of the dialogue between Nate and Sam is them arguing over each other as they try to decide what to do about the car they’re following, and the things he’s saying that they keep hearing from the mic.
And also, where the hell are all the cops?
And the list goes on.
I enjoyed the idea of Amber Alert, but, for me, the execution was just ill-conceived and not the least bit believable. You want to be able to take a story like this seriously, not spend the 80 minutes picking apart how stupid the characters are and how much more quickly things could have been solved by just making better, more realistic and logical, choices.
I still love cheap indie movies, and I still love found footage movies, but Amber Alert is the perfect example of good intentions gone awry. It’s also proof that, just because you have a camera and a couple actors in your back pocket, that doesn’t automatically make you Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez. The story still has to make SOME kind of sense, otherwise you’re wasting the viewer’s time.