14 March 2006 | gradyharp
A Staggering Film That Should Be Required Viewing
The truth is tough, the truth must be faced, and the truth is what THE EXONERATED is all about. A project started by writers Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen in 2000 when, in response to a lecture on capital punishment, the couple was moved by the telephone voice of one of the many innocent people on death row who had been falsely convicted of murders they did not in truth commit. This lead to a commitment on the part of Blank and Jensen to interview six such imprisoned people who had spent years of their lives on Death Row only to be eventually exonerated and released. The result of this research was a play that not only was on Broadway but also traveled the country. Now director Bob Balaban has transformed this play into one of the most searingly powerful dramas about our penal system that has ever been produced.
Each of the six condemned people on death row is portrayed by a gifted actor and the script is taken 100% from interviews and testimony and court records of these exonerated victims. They each tell their story of the incident that resulted in their wrongful arrest and conviction, their experience while confined to Death Row, their thoughts of living in threat of execution, and their manner of dealing with the world once released. These different people are portrayed by Brian Dennehy, Delroy Lindo, Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover, Aidan Quinn, and David Brown, Jr. Adding some significant reenacted dialogue from spouses and police and jury are such fine actors as Lee Turgesen, Bobby Cannavale, Laurence Luckinbill with a host of others in minor roles.
At the end of the film each of these actors who have been creating the characters are faded into the actual exonerated victims who speak directly to us about their response. The overwhelming message is one against capital punishment, racism, against railroading innocent people into the prison system without the fairness of well-guided appeals, against all the flaws that besiege our penal system. The effect is shattering and staggering. This is NOT a docudrama, but a sensitively written, produced, directed and acted film. It is a film that every citizen of the world should see. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp