A convicted murderer on Death Row and the nun who befriends him. Through the portrayal of finely drawn characters and their interactions as the days, hours, and minutes tick down to the condemned man's execution, powerful emotions are unleashed. While Matthew Poncelet and Sister Prejean desperately try to gain a stay of execution from the governor or the courts, scenes are intercut from the brutal crime, gradually revealing the truth about the events that transpired. In addition to her temporal help, the nun also tries to reach out spiritually and assist as a guide to salvation. Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
This Film Was Edited On Old Fashioned Machines. This credit was inspired by John Ottman, editor of 'The Usual Suspects'. Ottman had wanted to put "edited on a piece of s*** Steenbeck" at the end of his movie, but settled for the more subtle "Edited on film". Tim Robbins heard about this, and decided to put his own variation of the line on the credits of 'Dead Man Walking.' See more »
Tim Robbins's 'Dead Man Walking' is a brave piece of cinema. Though the film is about a man on death row and a nun's struggle to help him, I liked how he presented both sides of the central theme of capital punishment. This isn't a preachy film about capital punishment being wrong or right as I doubt one's opinion would change on that after watching the movie. But, it's more of a subtle movie that tells the story of two people who form an unlikely friendship.
This couldn't have been an easy film to make yet he manages to pull it off. Poncelet is a ruthless murderer and in no way does Robbins condone what he has done but he and actor Sean Penn manage to win Poncelet the viewer's sympathy. The execution is terrific. The last scene particularly stands out. We see, in flashback, what had happened while Poncelet meets his ultimate fate. We see how he and Helen make the final connection, we see remorse in his eyes, we see him dying a slow death and at the same time the horror of the crime is exposed to us. We know that what he did is unforgivable but he finally took responsibility for that which allows us to see him as a human being rather than a ruthless killer. This also makes the whole tragedy more astonishing because you just ponder, like Sister Helen, on how such a normal human being commit such a heinous deed?
Both Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon deliver powerful performances. We pretty much see most of the film from Helen's point of view. Sarandon clearly has put a lot of heart into the role as she skillfully downplays her part showing tremendous depth and pathos. Sean Penn plays his difficult complex character with ease. The supporting cast do well (watch out for a young Jack Black and Peter Sarsgaard).
The score is mesmerizing, especially the Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan tracks. I also felt that sense of isolation that was brought out in the prison scenes. The terrific writing grips the viewer's attention right from the start. Even though we can predict Poncelet's fate, we are drawn into the fascinating transforming journey of these two intriguing characters.
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