Dead Man Walking (1995)

R   |    |  Crime, Drama


Dead Man Walking (1995) Poster

A nun, while comforting a convicted killer on death row, empathizes with both the killer and his victim's families.


7.5/10
86,837

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9 June 2001 | XRANDY
A worthy effort by all concerned.
Tim Robbins takes this film beyond its implicit political message and produces a moving piece of art. Though the underlying anti-death penalty moral is prevalent, the director never becomes tendentious. He intersperses the plight of death row inmate Matthew Poncelet with gruesome, if not surreal, images of the crime that he committed. And where one would expect a juxtaposition of the brutality of Poncelet's (and his co-perpetrator's) nefarious act with an equally cruel demonstration of state-sponsored execution, Robbins shows Poncelet's death to be clinical and quiet in comparison to his sordid deed. It is this type of restraint that not only adds credibility to the work but also power.

The performances of Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon as Poncelet and Sister Helen Prejean respectively, are stellar. Penn's grim nuance pervades his character as he moves from stoical rancor to the contrition that provides the denouement. With the incisiveness in which his acting has become associated he provides the edge in which Sarandon impinges her role. Appearing perpetually exhausted, she immerses herself in the sturm and drang of her part and counters Penn's fringe with an enveloping emollient. Even her expostulations and attempts to save Poncelet from perdition do not even approach pontification or the banal.

In the end this movie did not change my opinion on the death penalty; such conversions only occur via gradation. However it did leave a lasting impression on me as powerful as its provocative subject matter.

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