Inspired by the true story of a nun's relationship with a condemned man, this provocative examination of crime, punishment and redemption earned Susan Sarandon the 1995 OscarÃ‚(r) for Best Actress and Sean Penn an OscarÃ‚(r) nomination for Best Actor. Dead Man Walking is a "fast-moving and absorbing" film filled with "genuine suspense" (Variety) that will leave you awe-struck from beginning to end. Sister Helen Prejean (Sarandon), a compassionate New Orleansnun, is the spiritual advisor to Matthew Poncelet (Penn), a vicious, angry and complex murderer awaiting execution. Her dedication is to help others, like Matthew, find salvation. But as she attemptsto navigate Matthew's dark soul, she encounters a depth of evil that makes her question how far redemption can really go. Can she stave off the fateful day of execution long enough to save Matthew, or will she discover a truth that will rock the very foundation by which she lives her life?
Superbly adapted and directed by Tim Robbins from the nonfiction book of the same name by Sister Helen Prejean, this spiritually enlightened drama is too intelligent to traffic in polemics or self-righteous pontifications against the death penalty. But in examining the issue of capital punishment from a humanitarian perspective, the film urges thoughtful reflection on the justifications for legally ending a human life. Although it features a fine supporting cast, the film maintains its sharp focus through flawless lead performances by Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon as the Catholic nun Prejean, and Sean Penn as the death-row killer she struggles to save. Robbins avoids a biased message, letting the movie examine both sides of the issue instead (R. Lee Ermey gives a fine performance as the grief-stricken father of one of Penn's victims). As the drama unfolds and Penn's execution deadline grows near, Dead Man Walking is graced by compelling depths of theme and character, achieving an emotional impact that demands further reflection and removes the stigma of piousness from socially conscious filmmaking. --Jeff Shannon
4 Poster Pictures of Dead Man Walking (1996)
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