Monday, May 30, 2011

Double Dakota Feature: I Am Sam (2001) & Man On Fire (2004)

For this Double Dakota Feature, I decided to go back and check out two of Dakota's earlier titles. I Am Sam was her very first feature film. In it, she plays the seven year old daughter of a mentally handicapped man who is stuck raising her on his own. Trouble is, she's at the stage where her development is progressing beyond her father's own intellectual capacity. So, after a little mishap, the state gets involved and takes her away from him, while he does everything in his power (which he doesn't have a lot of) to try to get her back.

It's a touching story that brings up the question of what it takes to raise a child, how important love is to that equation, and whether or not it's true that "all you need is love". One of Sam's fixations is on the Beatles, who are adequately represented in the soundtrack (albeit via covers), and which actually leads to the naming of Dakota's character, Lucy [in the Sky with Diamonds]. Speaking of, Dakota is crazy young in this movie, but she's adorable, and a total presence on the screen.

Man On Fire was an exciting, though tragic, action-packed revenge film. The setup of the plot is that many kidnappings are occurring in Mexico, to the point that rich families have taken to hiring professional bodyguards to protect their children. Denzel Washington plays the washed up ex-assassin, Creasy, tormented by the demons of his past, who takes up a job protecting young Pita, our beloved Dakota Fanning. Creasy is unfriendly at first, but Pita's affection (and natural charm) breaks through his defenses and they quickly form a bond before she is inevitably, and tragically, kidnapped. The bloodshed that ensues is par for the course, but poor little Pita's fate is less certain.

I liked Denzel's character in this movie, though I'm partial to tortured souls seeking redemption. But Dakota holds her own alongside him, and is eminently likable, which makes her kidnapping all the more tragic, and really drew me into the story. I sensed that, although still very young, Dakota had that sort of spark to her personality that I recognize from her later roles that I've seen. I'll watch anything with her in it (and I plan to :p), but I suspect this film will rate among the better titles.

"In the church they say to forgive."

"Forgiveness is between them and God. It's my job to arrange the meeting."


  1. I remember watching I Am Sam years ago, and the one thing that stuck out in my mind was how fantastic that little girl was. I just knew she'd be a star.