Sins of the Father is an emotional film. It is overflowing with disturbing images of both racial and domestic violence. The cast is quite convincing. This film is not for everyone. The portrayal of the racial tensions of 1960’s Alabama closely resembles the historic footage interwoven in the film for realism. The film often switches from 1998 to 1963 and the transitions are often confusing.
Five racists in Birmingham, Alabama conspire to bomb a black church, killing 4 young girls who were attending Bible school there. The film follows the life of the son of one of the suspects and the internal struggle he underwent before finally helping to bring his own father to justice for his part in the bombings 37 years after the event.
The main audio track on this disc is Dolby Digital 5.1. There isn’t really much in the way of ambient sounds, but what is there comes out clear. The extra channels are used primarily for the score and seldom for anything happening onscreen. The notable exception is the opening church service which comes across as vibrant and bright in stark contrast to the mood of most of the film. The dialogue is always easy to distinguish.
Sins of the Father is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. There is also a pan and scan version provided on the disc. There are moments of great brilliance in color and cinematography, as in the opening church scene, but most of the film takes place in somber lighting and subdued color. Flesh tones in particular were very inconsistent, causing me to check my color adjustment a few times before being satisfied that the print was to blame. There is significant grain evident on the print, but it helps to blend the film into its accompanying historic footage.
Except for a trailer there are no special features on this disc. The addition of the unnecessary pan and scan version of these films makes the inclusion of bonus materials problematic. I would like to see Hollywood forgo the cropped images and opt for more extras.
Tom Sizemore, perhaps best known for his performance in Saving Private Ryan, is outstanding in this emotional role. Ving Rhames also delivers a subtle but pivotal role as Gerrick, a black laborer and eventual friend to Tom Cherry. Without doubt this is a powerful story that is brimming with emotional tension. The end result is a little uneven and more than a little unsettling, but perhaps that was the point. Hate is so obviously a learned response. Tom tells the Grand Jury that: “I thought that was the way men were supposed to act.”