Movie Recommendation: Dead Man Walking (1995)

Quote from Dead Man Walking by prison guard: “I ain’t gonna get no Bible quote from no nun cause I’m gonna lose.”

Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Jon Kilik, Allan F. Nicholls, Tim Robbins, Mark Seldis, Rudd Simmons, and R.A. White

Director: Tim Robbins

Writers: Helen Prejean (book) and Tim Robbins (adaptation)

Cast: Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Raymond J. Barry, R. Lee Ermey, Celia Weston, Lois Smith, Roberta Maxwell, Margo Martindale, Scott Wilson, etc

Rating: R for depiction of rape and murder

Running Time: 2 hours and 2 minutes

Dead Man Walking is a drama about murder and the death penalty, and how it affects those involved: survivors of the murdered, the killers, and prison employees.  The protagonist, Matthew Poncelet, is the combination of Elmo Patrick Sonnier and his brother Willie in Helen Prejean’s book.  Poncelet is first acquainted with Prejean through letter correspondence, but as their relationship grows, her role as spiritual advisor takes on a deeper meaning.  It is during these visits, he is encouraged to face the truth about his crimes.  The longer she spends time with him on death row, the more she finds he is worthy of redemption.  It is at this point Prejean solidifies the Jello, so to speak, and becomes an advocate against the death penalty.  Controversy makes for good cinema, and this story gives equal time to both sides, killers and victims, and its justifiable reasoning with the pros and cons of the death penalty.   Knowing your life is coming to an end, as if you were in Poncelet’s slippers, and if that makes you uncomfortable, then in the shoes of the couple that were killed, although this should probably make you uncomfortable too are painful realities life can offer.   It reminds us that innocent people get killed and sometimes justice is not served, in a general sense.  Accepting the facts in front of you, as hard as it might be, is sometimes the only option.  The movie’s ending is what you would call a harsh and complicated reality.  But leaving on a positive note, Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon give great performances, and a little bit of trivia, this was the first movie role for Peter Sarsgaard.  And one more thing, this soundtrack remains one of my favorites from the 1990’s, so check it out.

Dead Man Walking gets a rating of 93%.

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