‘Trial by Fire’ Film Review: Death Row Drama Skirts Important Issues

  • The Wrap
‘Trial by Fire’ Film Review: Death Row Drama Skirts Important Issues
A perpetually alarming issue that merits interminable outrage, wrongful convictions are not news in this country. Innocent people accused of a crime, or at least individuals not dutifully proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, face a voracious system where circumstantial variables sway the law more than facts do.

This failure of justice resulting in lives lost to unearned sentences is so pervasive that countless movies (both scripted and non-fiction) populate their own subgenre chock-full of these dispiriting cases. In “Trial by Fire,” the latest fiction adapted from real-life tragedy, despair is amplified by the state of Texas’ fondness of fatal reprisal and right-leaning attitudes.

Translated into screenplay form by Geoffrey Fletcher (“Precious”) from David Grann’s identically titled article for The New Yorker, director Edward Zwick’s tremendously cast but inadequately realized drama details how Cameron Todd Willingham went from being a lousy husband (yet loving father) to getting branded
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