IMDb > Dead Man Walking (1995)
Dead Man Walking
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Dead Man Walking (1995) More at IMDbPro »

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No change in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Writers (WGA):
Helen Prejean (book)
Tim Robbins (written by)
View company contact information for Dead Man Walking on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
12 January 1996 (USA) See more »
A nun, while comforting a convicted killer on death row, empathizes with both the killer and his victim's families. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
Won Oscar. Another 20 wins & 15 nominations See more »
(305 articles)
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User Reviews:
Outstanding Performance by Susan Sarandon See more (174 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Susan Sarandon ... Sister Helen Prejean

Sean Penn ... Matthew Poncelet

Robert Prosky ... Hilton Barber

Raymond J. Barry ... Earl Delacroix

R. Lee Ermey ... Clyde Percy

Celia Weston ... Mary Beth Percy

Lois Smith ... Helen's Mother

Scott Wilson ... Chaplain Farley

Roberta Maxwell ... Lucille Poncelet

Margo Martindale ... Sister Colleen
Barton Heyman ... Captain Beliveau

Steve Boles ... Sgt. Neal Trapp

Nesbitt Blaisdell ... Warden Hartman
Ray Aranha ... Luis Montoya

Larry Pine ... Guy Gilardi
Gil Robbins ... Bishop Norwich

Kevin Cooney ... Governor Benedict

Clancy Brown ... State Trooper

Adele Robbins ... Nurse
Michael Cullen ... Carl Vitello

Peter Sarsgaard ... Walter Delacroix

Missy Yager ... Hope Percy
Jenny Krochmal ... Emily Percy

Jack Black ... Craig Poncelet

Jon Abrahams ... Sonny Poncelet
Arthur Bridgers ... Troy Poncelet
Steve Carlisle ... Helen's Brother
Helen Hester ... Helen's Sister

Eva Amurri Martino ... 9-Year-Old Helen (as Eva Amurri)
Jack Henry Robbins ... Opossum Kid #1
Gary 'Buddy' Boe ... Opossum Kid #2
Amy Long ... Opossum Kid #3
Dennis Neal ... Henry (as Dennis F. Neal)

Molly Bryant ... Nellie
Pamela Garmon ... Mirabeau

Adrian Colon ... Reporter
John D. Wilmot ... Supporter
Margaret Lane ... Reporter #1
Sally Ann Roberts ... Reporter #2
Alec Gifford ... Reporter #3
John Hurlbutt ... Reporter #4
Mike Longman ... News Anchor

Pete Burris ... Parent #1
Joan Glover ... Parent #2
Florrie Hathorn ... Parent #3
Lenore Banks ... Parent #4
Idella Cassamier ... Idella
Marlon Horton ... Herbie
Kenitra Singleton ... Kenitra
Palmer Jackson ... Palmer
Johnathan Thomas ... Johnathan
Walter Breaux Jr. ... Guard #1

Scott Sowers ... Guard #2
Cortez Nance Jr. ... Guard #3

Adam Nelson ... Guard #4
Dalvin Ford ... Guard #5
Derek Steeley ... Guard #6
Jeremy Knaster ... Guard #7
Mary Robbins ... Aide to Governor Benedict
Miles Robbins ... Boy in Church
rest of cast listed alphabetically:

Marcus Lyle Brown ... Parole Board Member (uncredited)
Joanna Doherty ... Nun (uncredited)

Anthony Michael Frederick ... Trustee (uncredited)

Rawleigh Moreland ... La. Senator (uncredited)
Helen Prejean ... Woman at Vigil (uncredited)

Codie Scott ... Cop (uncredited)
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Directed by
Tim Robbins 
Writing credits
Helen Prejean (book "Dead Man Walking") (as Sister Helen Prejean C.S.J.)

Tim Robbins (written by)

Produced by
Tim Bevan .... executive producer
Eric Fellner .... executive producer
Jon Kilik .... producer
Allan F. Nicholls .... associate producer (as Allan Nicholls)
Tim Robbins .... producer
Mark Seldis .... associate producer
Rudd Simmons .... producer
R.A. White .... associate producer (as Bob White)
Original Music by
David Robbins 
Cinematography by
Roger Deakins (director of photography) (as Roger A. Deakins)
Film Editing by
Lisa Zeno Churgin 
Ray Hubley 
Casting by
Douglas Aibel 
Production Design by
Richard Hoover 
Art Direction by
Tom Warren 
Costume Design by
Renee Ehrlich Kalfus  (as Renée Ehrlich Kalfus)
Makeup Department
Ma Kalaadevi Ananda .... makeup designer: Ms. Sarandon (as Marilyn Carbone)
Michal Bigger .... key makeup artist
Allison Gordin .... assistant makeup artist: New Orleans
Michael Kriston .... hair stylist: Mr. Penn
Aaron F. Quarles .... key hair stylist
Lizz Scalice .... additional hair stylist: New York
Donna Spahn .... assistant hair stylist: New Orleans
Stacy Kelly .... assistant makeup artist (uncredited)
Production Management
Nancy Kriegel .... production supervisor
Rudd Simmons .... unit production manager
Graham Stumpf .... post-production supervisor
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Sam Hoffman .... second assistant director
Patrick Mangan .... DGA trainee: New York
Allan F. Nicholls .... first assistant director (as Allan Nicholls)
Ann C. Salzer .... second second assistant director: New Orleans
Art Department
Christie Alexander .... art department coordinator: New Orleans
Lawrence Amanuel .... set dresser: New York (as Larry Amanuel)
Lucian Baran .... scenic artist: New York
Martin Bernstein .... construction coordinator: New York
Jack Blanchard .... set dresser: New Orleans
Michael Curry Sr. .... construction foreman: New York
Glen Engels .... construction grip: New York
Ralph Fratianni .... construction grip: New York
Laurie Friedman .... set decorator: New York
Charles H. Furey .... shop craftsman: New York (as Charles Furey)
Harvey Goldberg .... set dresser: New York
Kenneth Hardy .... art director: New Orleans
John Herbert .... scenic artist: New Orleans
Eugene J. Hines .... shop craftsman: New York
Coril Joseph .... property assistant: New Orleans
Richard S. Kamin .... shop craftsman: New York
Henry Kaplan .... set dresser: New York
Brian Kasch .... set decorator: New Orleans (as Brian S. Kasch)
Phillis Lehmer .... art department coordinator: New York
E.J. Levron Jr. .... set dresser: New Orleans
Mark Mann .... shop craftsman
Michael S. Martin .... on-set dresser: New Orleans (as Michael Martin)
Malcolm McClay .... scenic artist: New Orleans
Patrick McGuire .... lead man: New Orleans
Eric M. Metzger .... set dresser
Timothy Metzger .... lead man: New York
Morgan Miller .... set dressing production assistant: New Orleans
Arne Olsen .... key construction grip: New York
Nick Rippon .... construction coordinator: New Orleans
Chinyere Ryan .... scenic shop coordinator: New York
Joanne Schmidt .... assistant set decorator: New Orleans
James Sorice .... lead scenic: New York
Larry Spurlock .... lead scenic: New Orleans
Shawna Starkman .... art department production assistant: New Orleans
David Stein .... assistant art director: New York
Chuck Stringer .... lead carpenter: New Orleans (as George 'Chuck' Stringer III)
Margot Therre .... scenic artist: New York
Kevin A. Tonkin .... construction grip: New York
Mary Wigmore .... art department production assistant: New York
Greg Williams .... scenic artist: New York
John S. Wright .... carpenter: New Orleans
Thomas Wright .... property master (as Tom Wright)
Travis Wright .... assistant property master
Jacqueline Arnot .... set dresser (uncredited)
Patrick K. Coppinger .... painter (uncredited)
Michael Hendrick .... set dresser (uncredited)
Brick Mason .... storyboard artist (uncredited)
Scott P. Murphy .... assistant art director (uncredited)
Chuck Stringer .... construction foreman (uncredited)
Sound Department
Gary Chester .... sound mixing engineer
Gary Chester .... sound recording engineer
Anthony J. Ciccolini III .... dialogue editor (as Anthony 'Chic' Ciccolini III)
Rick Dior .... sound re-recording mixer
Scott Dior .... sound recordist
Bradford L. Hohle .... stereo sound consultant: Dolby
Joel Holland .... sound recordist
George A. Lara .... foley mixer (as George Lara)
Hal Levinsohn .... adr editor
Tod A. Maitland .... sound mixer
James Murray .... second assistant sound recording engineer (as Jim Murray)
Yvette Nabel .... assistant sound editor
T.J. O'Mara .... boom operator
Bob Olari .... sound recordist
Daniel Pagan .... apprentice sound editor
Harry Peck Bolles .... dialogue editor
Charleen Richards .... adr mixer: Los Angeles
Dan Sable .... supervising sound editor
Lynn Sable .... sound editor
Brian Vancho .... foley walker (as Bryan Vancho)
Yvonne Yedibalian .... assistant sound recording engineer
Paul J. Zydel .... adr mixer: New York (as Paul Zydel)
Camera and Electrical Department
Greg Addison .... electrician: New York
Tony Arnaud .... grip: New York
Robin Brown .... camera operator
Sal Camacho .... second assistant camera: New Orleans
Brian Carmichael .... video playback operator
Buddy Carr .... grip: New Orleans
Cougar Easley .... electrician: New Orleans
Kris Enos .... camera trainee: New York
Richie Ford .... rigging gaffer: New York
Adam Gilmore .... second assistant camera
Jonathan Graham .... rigging grip: New York
Joseph Grimaldi .... electrician: New York (as Joe Grimaldi)
Bruce Hamme .... dolly grip
Andy Harris .... first assistant camera
Jeremy Knaster .... second electric
Mitchell Andrew Lillian .... key grip (as Mitch Lillian)
Charlie Marroquin .... best boy grip (as Charles Marroquin)
Gary Martone .... grip: New York
Bill McCord .... grip (as Dollar Bill McCord)
Erskin Mitchell .... electrician: New Orleans
Monique Mitchell .... grip: New York
William Moore .... best boy electric
Bill O'Leary .... gaffer
Chris Robertson .... grip: New Orleans
Lance Shepherd .... electrician: New York (as Lance A. Shepherd)
Michael L. Smith .... electrician: New Orleans (as Mike Smith)
Demmie Todd .... still photographer
Val Zimmer .... grip: New Orleans
Paul Olinde .... electrician: New Orleans (uncredited)
John B. Pekkanen .... grip (uncredited)
Abe Schrager .... camera operator: New York (uncredited)
Casting Department
Jordan Beswick .... casting assistant
Vicki Cosentino .... extras casting: New York
Rebecca Gibson .... casting assistant: New Orleans
Tracy Kilpatrick .... local extras casting: New Orleans
Grant Wilfley .... extras casting: New York
David H. Kramer .... adr voice casting (uncredited)
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Kim Marie Druce .... assistant costume designer
Alix Hester .... wardrobe production assistant: New York
Bonney Langfitt .... additional wardrobe: New Orleans
Gina Lombardino .... assistant wardrobe
Jeanne Normand .... assistant wardrobe
Hartsell Taylor .... wardrobe supervisor
Peter White .... wardrobe supervisor
Editorial Department
Julie Daggett .... editing production assistant: New Orleans
Barry Gastelu .... post-production intern
Agnes Grandits .... second assistant editor (as Agnès Challe-Grandits)
Allison R. Hebble .... post-production assistant: Tim Robbins
Kristen M. Johnson .... assistant editor (as Kristen Johnson)
Clare Larson .... first assistant editor
Chris Lechler .... apprentice editor: New Orleans
Sandra Nash .... apprentice editor
James Nichols Jr. .... apprentice editor
Eddie Nichols .... apprentice editor
Anne O'Brien .... apprentice editor
Angela Organ .... apprentice editor
Tom Salvatore .... color timer
Shawna Starkman .... assistant editor
Chris Talbott .... post-production assistant
Michael J. Wechsler .... apprentice editor
Mary Wigmore .... post-production assistant
Sara Corrigan .... apprentice editor (uncredited)
John Dowdell .... hd colorist (uncredited)
John Dowdell .... telecine colorist (uncredited)
Music Department
Farrukh Fateh Ali Khan .... musician: harmonium and vocals
John Beal .... musician: bass
David Campbell .... orchestrator conductor
Frank Centeno .... musician: bass guitar
Gary Chester .... score mixer
Gary Chester .... score recording engineer
Mino Cinélu .... musician: percussion, wood flute and accordion
Ry Cooder .... music producer: songs
Ry Cooder .... musician: additional guitar
Joel Diamond .... musician: hammond organ
David Düsing .... choral contractor
Seamus Egan .... musician: uilleann pipes and bouzoki
Norwood Fisher .... musician: bass guitar
Phillip Fisher .... musician: drums
Eric Friedlander .... musician: violincello
Juliet Haffner .... orchestral contractor
Juliet Hafner .... musician: viola
Dildar Hussain .... musician: tabla
Julianne Jordan .... music project manager (as Julianne Kelley)
David Klotz .... music assistant
Gale Limansky .... soloist
Richard Locker .... musician: violincello
Jill Meyers .... music business affairs
Alison Miner .... music consultant: New Orleans
Eugene J. Moye .... musician: violincello (as Eugene Moye)
Patrick Mullins .... music editor
Annie Ohayon .... music consultant: New York
Frankie Pine .... music licensing manager
Susan Pray .... musician: viola
David Ratajczak .... musician: drums
David Robbins .... music supervisor
David Robbins .... musician: electric and acoustic guitars
Gil Robbins .... choral arrangement
Gil Robbins .... conductor
Ira Selsky .... music business affairs
Dawn Soler .... executive in charge of music (as Dawn Solér)
David Spinozza .... additional musician: guitar
John Vartan .... musician: oud, kementci and tambour
Ron Wasserman .... musician: bass
Frederic Zlotkin .... musician: violincello
Transportation Department
Pete Aquino .... driver: New York (as Peter Aquino)
Elven Barrow .... driver: New Orleans
William B. Borges .... driver: New Orleans (as Bill Borges)
Edward Brumfield .... driver: New Orleans
Greg Collins .... driver: New Orleans
Jerry Everett .... transportation coordinator: New Orleans
John Fitzpatrick .... driver: New York
Charlie Franklin .... driver: New Orleans
Huey Grey .... driver: New Orleans
Davis Hawn .... driver: New Orleans
Jimmy Humphreys .... driver: New Orleans
Earl R. Hurst Sr. .... driver: New Orleans (as Earl Hurst)
Loney Landry .... driver: New Orleans
David McMiller .... driver: New Orleans
Poland Perkins .... driver: New Orleans
Al Sens .... transportation captain: New Orleans
Phillip L. Tomalin Jr. .... driver: New Orleans (as Phil Tomalin)
Chip Vincent .... driver: New Orleans
Louis Volpe .... transportation captain: New York (as Louis 'Sonny' Volpe)
Ralph Volpe .... driver: New York
James Patrick Whalen Jr. .... driver: New York (as James 'Dinny' Whalen)
Bobby Williamson .... driver: New Orleans
Other crew
Eva Amurri Martino .... adr loop group
Sallie Jones Arata .... assistant production coordinator: New Orleans
Lee Arenberg .... adr loop group
Scott August .... set production assistant: New Orleans
Marcus Barben .... assistant chef: New Orleans
Ned Bellamy .... adr loop group
Debbie Berins .... office personal assistant: New Orleans
Susie Blanchard .... set medic: New Orleans
Brian Brophy .... adr loop group
Molly Bryant .... adr loop group
Eva Z. Cabrera .... script supervisor
David Carmel .... assistant: Tim Robbins
Cynthia Carriere .... location production assistant: New Orleans
Greg Cattano .... security production assistant: New York
Kayla Chaillot .... craft service: New Orleans
Liza Chasin .... president of development and production: Working Title
Holly Cherry .... assistant: Sean Penn
Rashid Chinchanwala .... head of finance: Working Title
Kay Collyer .... legal service
Adrian Colon .... set production assistant: New Orleans
Pierce Cravens .... adr loop group
Christine Donatelli .... set production assistant: New Orleans
Howard Fabrick .... legal service
Jeremy Fader .... office personal assistant: New York
Abby Fender .... adr loop group
David 'Flip' Filippi .... set production assistant: New York
Jeff Foster .... adr loop group
Brad Fox .... tattoo artwork performer
Jane Frazer .... head of production: Working Title
Bonnie Friedman .... production secretary: New Orleans
Lisa Gaede .... set production assistant: New York
Kyle Gass .... adr loop group
Shelley Geiler .... assistant to producers
Chris Gilmer .... key set production assistant
Michele Giordano .... production coordinator (as Michelle Giordano)
Jill Goldstein .... legal service
Oliver Goodenough .... legal service
Brad 'Mo' Gremillion .... chef: New Orleans
Joe Grimm .... adr loop group
Dana A. Hanby .... assistant location manager: New Orleans
Nancy Hartmann .... intern: New Orleans
Gretchen Hatz .... office personal assistant: New York
Gerry Hawkins .... title designer
Hillary Hawkins .... adr loop group
Allison R. Hebble .... assistant: Susan Sarandon
Barbara Heller .... location manager: New Orleans
Dionna Hickman .... adr loop group
Billy Hinshelwood .... legal service
Aldis Hodge .... adr loop group
Edwin Hodge .... adr loop group
Rachel Holroyd .... legal advisor: Working Title
Lys Hopper .... location coordinator: New York
Elston Howard .... assistant location manager: New Orleans
Delroy Hunter .... parking coordinator: New York
Ron James .... assistant: David Robbins
Steven Josephs .... assistant chef: New Orleans
Cole Kazdin .... intern: New York (as Nicole Kazdin)
Candice Kersh .... legal service
Genevieve King .... intern: New Orleans
Israel Larios .... craft service: New York
Melissa Logan .... accounting assistant: New York
Joseph Lombardi .... accounting assistant: New York (as Joe Lombardi)
M.J. Magbanua .... assistant production coordinator: New York
Jill Meyers .... legal affairs
Gary Miller .... chef: New Orleans
Tim Monich .... dialect coach
Anthony Monteforte .... craft service: New York
Katherine Ann Moore .... publicist: New Orleans (as Katherine Moore)
Angela Morrison .... head of business affairs: Working Title
Tricia Parks .... adr loop group
Victoria Person .... office personal assistant: New Orleans
Dina Platias .... adr loop group
Steve Porter .... adr loop group
Brian Powell .... adr loop group
Helen Prejean .... consultant (as Sister Helen Prejean C.S.J.)
Jason Clark Ramsey .... production secretary: New York
Michael Remacle .... office personal assistant: New York
Kathleen Richter .... assistant production accountant: New Orleans
Adele Robbins .... adr loop group
Jack Henry Robbins .... adr loop group
Dean Robinson .... adr loop group
James Roque .... set production assistant (as James Roque Jr.)
Ben Rothman .... adr loop group
Albert G. Ruben .... insurance
Joe Russo .... office personal assistant: New Orleans
Carla M. Schorr .... assistant production accountant: New York
Peter Schön .... assistant production coordinator: New York (as Peter Schon)
Ira Selsky .... legal affairs
Patrick Sheedy .... post-production accountant
Mindy Sheldon .... production accountant: New York
Ron Terry .... craft service: New Orleans
Patti Tippo .... adr loop group
Cari Dean Whittemore .... adr loop group
Robb Williams .... assistant sound mixing engineer
Anne Wilson .... production accountant: New Orleans (as Anne Moosman)
Dawn Wolf .... craft service: New York
Eric David Zoback .... stage manager: New York
Shirley Davis .... assistant production coordinator: New York (uncredited)
Nicole DuBois .... body double: Missy Yager (uncredited)
Simon Abkarian .... special thanks
Farrukh Fateh Ali Khan .... thanks (as The Ali Khan Family)
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan .... thanks (as The Ali Khan Family)
Rahat Fateh Ali Khan .... thanks (as The Ali Khan Family)
Barry Ancelet .... special thanks
Jason Barry .... special thanks
Thelma Bledsoe .... dedicatee
Brigid Boden .... special thanks
Sharon Boyle .... special thanks
Clancy Brown .... special thanks
Burl Cain .... special thanks
Kimberly M. Carbo .... special thanks
Gayle Carpenter .... special thanks
Sam Caruso .... special thanks
Steve Castellano .... special thanks
Sam Cohn .... special thanks
Ry Cooder .... special thanks
Cindy Cook .... special thanks
Maureen Crowe .... special thanks
David Daugherty .... special thanks
Rashid Ahmed Din .... special thanks
Arlene Donovan .... special thanks
Deana Elwell .... special thanks
O.P. Donald Everard .... special thanks
Rick Finkelstein .... special thanks
Lillian Flavin .... special thanks (as Sister Lillian Flavin)
Peter Gabriel .... special thanks
Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas .... special thanks
Peter D. Graves .... special thanks (as Peter Graves)
Samantha Hart .... special thanks
Nadine Hasan .... special thanks
Ken Hertz .... special thanks
Hyatt Hood .... special thanks
Elton Jones .... special thanks
Malcolm Joseph .... special thanks
Dr. Katz .... special thanks
Michael Kelly .... special thanks
Erin Kovel .... special thanks
Michael Kuhn .... special thanks
Barry Levine .... special thanks
Margaret Maggio .... special thanks (as Sister Margaret Maggio C.S.J.)
Norik Manoukian .... special thanks
R. Dwayne McFatter .... special thanks
Tom Mikkelsen .... special thanks
Marc H. Morial .... special thanks
Grant Morris .... special thanks
Aline Perry .... special thanks
Pliny Porter .... special thanks
Kieran Alexander Presley .... special thanks
Malcolm Ritchie .... special thanks
Chelsea Robbins .... special thanks
Gabrielle Robbins .... special thanks
Lee Robbins .... dedicatee
Thiery Robbins .... special thanks
Julia Roberts .... special thanks
Michael Sartisky .... special thanks
Russell Schwartz .... special thanks
Patti Scialfa .... special thanks
Marjolaine Sebagh .... special thanks
Jody Silverman .... special thanks
Jack Snyder .... special thanks
Bruce Springsteen .... special thanks
Roger Stein .... special thanks
Stewart Till .... special thanks
Nicole Vaudry .... special thanks
Eddie Vedder .... special thanks
Keith Villere .... special thanks
Bart Walker .... special thanks
Suzanne Weinert .... special thanks
Mark Wolfe .... special thanks
Crew verified as complete

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Additional Details

Also Known As:
Rated R for a depiction of a rape and murder
122 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.85 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Filming Locations:

Did You Know?

In reality, Elmo Patrick Sonnier and Robert Lee Willie, both inmates on whom Sean Penn's character Matthew Poncelet is based on, were executed by the electric chair in Louisiana in 1984; by 1993, Louisiana switched that penalty to lethal injection as the most humane way to execute. Both Tim Robbins and Helen Prejean opted to use lethal injection in the film instead of the electric chair because, according to Prejean's interview, "We don't want to give people the moral (of the most humane death) out whereby people could say 'Oh well, we used to do electrocution but that's too barbaric so now we are humane and inject them'."See more »
Continuity: In some scenes where Helen is talking to Matthew through the grate, her face is pressed up against the wires but in reverse angle shots it is not.See more »
Matthew Poncelet:I just wanna say I think killin' is wrong, no matter who does it, whether it's me or y'all or your government.See more »
Movie Connections:
I Will Not Be Sad in This WorldSee more »


What does the title mean?
What did Matthew Poncelet do that landed him on death row?
Is this based on a true story?
See more »
39 out of 64 people found the following review useful.
Outstanding Performance by Susan Sarandon, 18 November 2001
Author: jhclues from Salem, Oregon

In a world in which debatable and misunderstood subjects can be listed endlessly, this powerful 1995 film takes on one at the top of that list; moreover, it does it objectively and realistically, and with a sensibility and sensitivity that makes it a truly great film by anyone's measuring stick. And to add some irony to it all, even the subject matter of this film has been widely misunderstood, as it is wrongly perceived that this is a film about the pros and cons of the death penalty; it is not. At the heart of `Dead Man Walking,' directed by Tim Robbins, is a subject that in reality is possibly the most misunderstood of all, and with good reason, because it just may be the hardest thing there is for a human being to really-- and truly-- understand. And it is what this film is actually all about: Forgiveness. Real forgiveness; not excusing a heinous crime or the perpetrator thereof-- not saying that what's happened is okay-- but finding the strength to go on, and to do so by choosing life.

Director/screenwriter Tim Robbins has crafted and delivered a faithful adaptation of the novel by Sister Helen Prejean, in which she discusses her involvement with the death-row inmates to whom over the years she has ministered her faith in God. As chronicled in the film, what for her was to become a lifelong pursuit of not only justice, but human dignity, began with a simple letter from a death-row inmate at the Louisiana State Prison at Angola. Sentenced to death for rape and murder, Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn) was reaching out to anyone who would listen, when his letter ended up in the hands of Sister Prejean (Susan Sarandon), who soon found herself venturing into a territory of which she had absolutely no knowledge or experience. And Robbins has successfully captured Sister Prejean's emotional and turbulent journey succinctly, while managing to keep it devoid of any maudlin sentimentality, which makes it not only real, credible and believable, but makes it a poignant and thoroughly emotionally involving experience for the audience. Through the medium of the cinema, what was once a personal, significant emotional experience for Sister Prejean, becomes one for everyone who sees this film, as well.

For her soul-stirring, impassioned portrayal of Sister Prejean, Susan Sarandon deservedly won the Oscar for Best Actress. Sensitive and fraught with emotional depth, her performance is incredibly touching and real, especially in the way in which she conveys Sister Prejean's underlying natural fragility and vulnerability, which she adamantly tempered with the toughness she needed to carry on with her endeavors on behalf of Poncelet (and in reality, a total of five since she began). Whatever your point of view regarding the matters examined in this film, Sister Prejean is without question an individual of heroic proportions, which Sarandon exquisitely personifies here; and she does it without resorting to any superfluous melodramatics, but rather by keeping it real, by subtly and humbly exploring the humanity of the person in a very believable expression of characterization. It's an extraordinary performance, arguably the best of Sarandon's brilliant career.

Turning in a career-best performance, as well, is Sean Penn, who was nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of Poncelet (he lost out to Nicolas Cage, who won for his performance in `Leaving Las Vegas). Perfect for the part in every way, Penn has quite simply never been better, before or since. He effectively presents Poncelet as a real person, rather than as an overblown caricature of a monster capable of perpetrating the crimes depicted here. Not that it makes Poncelet any less despicable; just the opposite, in fact. It makes it genuinely disconcerting to be faced with the fact that someone who looks like a guy who could live next door to you could be capable of such things. And that's the strength of Penn's performance-- it's so disturbingly real, presented with depth and nuance; you have but to look into his eyes to find the imperfections of a troubled soul. A terrific performance, and -- as good as Cage was in `Vegas'-- Penn should have received the Oscar for it.

In another stand-out performance, Raymond J. Barry is memorable in a supporting role as Earl Delacroix, father of one of Poncelet's victims. With limited screen time, he nevertheless develops his character in such a way that enables you to empathize with him, as well as with Sister Prejean, as it is through him that we are given some insight into just how complex and seemingly tenuous her position is, at least on the surface. Barry presents Delacroix in such a way that gives the necessary balance and perspective to the story, which is ultimately extremely effective and helps to underscore the message of the film.

The supporting cast includes R. Lee Emery (Clyde Percy), Celia Weston (Mary Beth Percy), Lois Smith (Helen's Mother), Scott Wilson (Chaplin Farley), Roberta Maxwell (Lucille Poncelet), Margo Martindale (Sister Colleen) and Jack Black (Craig Poncelet). It is doubtful that this film will change anyone's mind one way or another about the death penalty, but that was never the intention; what was intended, was to make a thought-provoking, emotionally involving film, which is exactly what Robbins has accomplished with `Dead Man Walking.' Regardless of your personal point of view, this film will have an impact, and hopefully will open some minds to the true nature of forgiveness. For, as we see through the character of Earl Delacroix, true forgiveness is not something one merely decides to do, but is a task that can become a lifetime's work. And it's possibly one of the hardest things in life to effectively accomplish; and you come away from this film with an appreciation for individuals like Sister Prejean, who has selflessly dedicated her life to helping those in need, and to filmmakers like Robbins and Sarandon for bringing her to life for millions of people who otherwise would never have known her. I rate this one 10/10.

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Message Boards

Discuss this movie with other users on IMDb message board for Dead Man Walking (1995)
Recent Posts (updated daily)User
1996 best actrees OSCAR goes to... abril1088
Bad acting or bad directing? Picasner
Are we supposed to feel sorry... JoesDreaming
Thank god for the death penalty! uncrules30
Revenge or Forgiveness? anasuet1
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