Dead Man Walking (film)


Dead Man Walking (film)
Dead Man Walking

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tim Robbins
Produced by Tim Robbins
Jon Kilik
Rudd Simmon
Written by Tim Robbins
Based on Dead Man Walking by
Sister Helen Prejean C.S.J.
Starring Susan Sarandon
Sean Penn
Robert Prosky
Lois Smith
Jack Black
Celia Weston
Music by David Robbins
Cinematography Roger A. Deakins
Editing by Lisa Zeno Churgin
Studio PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
Working Title Films
Distributed by Gramercy Pictures
Release date(s) December 29, 1995 (1995-12-29)
Running time 122 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $11 million
Box office $86,387,284

Dead Man Walking is a 1995 American drama film directed by Tim Robbins, who adapted the screenplay from the non-fiction book of the same name. It tells the story of Sister Helen Prejean (played by Susan Sarandon), who establishes a special relationship with Matthew Poncelet (played by Sean Penn), a prisoner on death row in Louisiana.

Contents

Plot

Louisiana State Penitentiary, the setting of the movie

Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn) has been in prison six years, awaiting his execution by lethal injection for killing a teenage couple. Poncelet, located in the Louisiana State Penitentiary,[1] committed the crimes with a man named Carl Vitello (Michael Cullen), who received life imprisonment. As the day of his execution comes closer and closer, Poncelet asks Sister Helen to help him with a final appeal.

She decides to visit him, and he comes across as arrogant, sexist, and racist, not even pretending to feel any kind of remorse. Instead he affirms his innocence, insisting it was Vitello who killed the two teenagers. Convincing an experienced attorney to take on Poncelet's case pro bono, Sister Helen tries to obtain life imprisonment for Poncelet. Over time, after many visits, she establishes a special relationship with him. At the same time, she gets to know Poncelet’s mother (Roberta Maxwell) and the victims’ families. The families don’t understand Sister Helen's efforts to help Poncelet, claiming she is "taking his side." Instead they desire "absolute justice," namely his life for the lives of their children.

Sister Helen’s application for a pardon is declined. Poncelet asks Sister Helen to be his spiritual advisor through the day of execution, and she agrees. Sister Helen tells Poncelet that his redemption is possible only if he takes responsibility for what he did. Just before he is taken from his cell, Poncelet admits to Sister Helen that he killed the boy and raped the girl. During his execution, he appeals to the boy's parents for forgiveness and tells the girl's parents he hopes his death brings them peace. Poncelet is then executed and later given a proper burial. The murdered boy's father attends the ceremony and begins to pray with Sister Helen, ending the film.

Cast

The film was a family affair for Tim Robbins. In addition to his longtime companion Susan Sarandon, his father, Gil Robbins (Bishop Norwich), mother Mary Robbins (aide to the governor), sister Adele Robbins (nurse), and sons Jack Henry Robbins (opossum kid) and Miles Robbins (boy in church) all played in the film. His brother, David Robbins, composed the soundtrack.

Reception

Critical reception

The film was very well received by critics and currently holds a 94% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and an 80 out of 100 on Metacritic [1]. Hal Hinson of The Washington Post commented: "What this intelligent, balanced, devastating movie puts before us is nothing less than a contest between good and evil."[2] Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times described the acting: "For this kind of straight-ahead movie to work, the acting must be strong without even a breath of theatricality, and in Penn and Sarandon, 'Dead Man Walking' has performers capable of making that happen."[3] Roger Ebert called the film "absorbing, surprising, technically superb and worth talking about for a long time afterward."[4]

Accolades

At the 68th Academy Awards, Dead Man Walking was nominated in four different categories: Susan Sarandon won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role, Sean Penn was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, Tim Robbins for Best Director and its main track, " Dead Man Walking' " by Bruce Springsteen for Best Song. At the Golden Globes, Sarandon and Penn received nominations for their acting while Robbins received one for best screenplay.

Box office

Dead Man Walking debuted on December 29, 1995 in the United States. With a budget of $11 million, the film grossed $39,387,284 in the United States and $47,000,000 internationally, for a total of $86,387,284.[5]

Adaptation

The film consolidates two different people whom Prejean counseled on Death Row into one character, as well as merging their crimes and their victims' families into one event. Lesser details were also removed to shorten the film.

In reality, Elmo Patrick Sonnier (Poncelet in the adaptation) was executed in the electric chair. Director Tim Robbins opted to use lethal injection in the adaptation because, as Sister Helen said in an interview, "He took away the electric chair and said we need to use lethal injection because we don't want to give people the moral 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'".[6]

Other versions

In 2002, Tim Robbins, who adapted the book for the film, also wrote a stage version of Dead Man Walking.

See also

References

External links


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