If nothing else, Stolen gives viewers a chance to see James Van Der Beek made up into a sneering, splotch-faced septuagenarian. That silver-haired anomaly is one of two guises in which the Dawson’s Creek star appears in first-time director Anders Anderson’s 1958 and 2008-set film; in the earlier time period, he materializes as a construction worker who looks like a slightly older (and bearded) Dawson Leery. But that comes later. First, Anderson attends to the present-day narrative, beginning the film with police detective Tom Adkins (Jon Hamm), still obsessed with the kidnapping of his 10-year-old son eight years after the fact, rushing over to a construction site where a young boy’s body was just discovered. Although Adkins initially thinks the boy might be his son, it turns out to be a child kidnapped some 50 years earlier and the film duly flashes back to take in the newly discovered victim’s story.
Cutting continually between the present, in which the detective transfers his obsession with his son’s disappearance onto solving the 50-year-old crime, and the past, in which construction hand Matthew Wakefield (Josh Lucas) has his own son kidnapped while he’s fucking the wife of a gas station attendant against the outside of a bar, the filmmakers keep the transitions smooth, buoyed by a host of symbolic and narrative correlations. But smoothness is not inherently virtuous and here everything fits together too easily, the whole narrative neatly contrived to allow Adkins to address both crimes in one climactic exchange.
Similarly, too much of the glue holding together the sections consists of dully portentous imagery, such as the recurring appearances of an engraved whistle and a bunny ornament which the kidnapper dangles ominously in front of his victims. Factor in a host of not particularly effective aesthetic touches (an impressionistic sound design that weaves remembered phrases into the score, a faded brown look for the 1958 sequences) and a perfunctory treatment of the main characters’ issues (Wakefield’s feelings of guilt, Adkins learning to move on), and Stolen reveals a filmmaking hand in need of a considerable amount of seasoning.