MCDSTIL UC002

Matt Damon stars in “Stillwater.”

“Stillwater” is the title of the new Matt Damon crime drama about a father who tries to help his estranged daughter who is in prison in Marseilles, accused of a murder she claims she didn’t commit.

Sure, the change of locales from Italy to France didn’t fool you – this is a thinly disguised story of Amanda Knox.

You remember the details from the 10 o’clock news, that American exchange student who spent almost four years in an Italian prison following her conviction for the 2007 murder of her roommate.

Aged 20 at the time, she had called the police after returning to her apartment from spending the previous night with her boyfriend. She found her roommate’s blood in the bathroom. Initially, Knox, her boyfriend, and her employer were arrested. She and the boyfriend were convicted, until a known burglar’s fingerprints were found on her roommate’s possession.

All’s well that ends well – right?

Well, maybe not if you have to call on Matt Damon for help. That’s kinda what happens in this fictionalized version.

This time around think: “Conviction” meets “Not Without My Daughter” meets “Taken” – but with much less violence. Here he’s more in the mode of “Green Zone” than “Jason Bourne.”

“Stillwater” is now playing in theaters.

The title, of course, comes from the town of Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Damon plays a tough guy with thick skin but a tender interior, a product of the Oklahoma “roughneck” culture.

But you can’t help but think of that old homily about still waters running deep.

“Matt and I started going to Oklahoma early on to get a taste of the place and the people and spending time with roughnecks, in particular,” says director Tom McCarthy (“The Station Agent,” “Spotlight”). “They really opened up their lives to us, and their worlds and their families. They were incredibly instrumental in helping us shape the story.”

McCarthy is known for doing low-key films about disparate people who become unusual surrogate families.

Why did Matt Damon take on this role about a father who is willing to sacrifice everything to save his daughter?

“As a parent, it’s really personal,” he said of the making of the movie.

Young Will Hunting has grown up. He knows what it’s like to be a family man.

In “Stillwater” he displays a singleness of purpose. Bill Baker (Damon, that is) shouts: “I’m trying to get my little girl outta jail – that’s all I give a damn about!”

His daughter Allison is played by Abigail Breslin. You’ll remember her from movies like “Zombieland,” “Signs,” and “August: Osage County.” She was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in “Little Miss Sunshine.” Here, she’s all grown up herself, an exchange student accused of killing her Arab lover.

“We’ve exhausted every possibility …” the French lawyer tells Bill Baker.

“Is your lawyer not helping you?” asks Virginie (Camille Cotton), the woman he has met in Marseilles.

Bill painfully replies, “I’m doing it myself, y’know.”

“I could help,” Virginie volunteers.

Does that put everyone in danger – Bill, his daughter Allison, Virginie, her daughter Maya?

“I’m not going to give up,” growls Bill, determination in his voice.

Yes, but at what price?

Shirrel Rhoades is a film critic and former media executive. He previously served as executive vice president of Marvel Entertainment and has produced several movies and documentaries. He was also a senior faculty member of New York University’s Center for Publishing. He lives in Key West, Florida, and Lake Lure, North Carolina. Contact him at srhoades@aol.com.

Recommended for you