Dead Man Walking (1995)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBBB

United Kingdom/USA, 1995.  Havoc, Polygram Filmed Entertainment, Working Title Films.  Screenplay by Tim Robbins, based on the book by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by Jon Kilik, Tim Robbins, .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by , .  

is peerless in this powerful and fascinating adaptation of Sister Helen Prejean’s true-life novel, about her experiences as a nun counselling inmates on death row. Tim Robbins (showing exceptional power as a director) has written a script that combines Prejean’s two factual accounts into one fictional one involving  as the first convict Prejean ever counselled, a man on death row for the rape and murder of two young teenagers. The entire cast is perfectly rounded, from  as Prejean’s friend,  as an earnest appeals lawyer, as Penn’s brokenhearted mother, and , , and as the parents of the murder victims. The film is at heart a statement against the death penalty, but it doesn’t drive a message home:  it examines every aspect of the situation and challenges on many levels (unlike similarly themed films such as Last Dance and The Chamber) that you’ll struggle to comfortably find what you feel is true for yourself. has two wonderful scenes as Prejean’s wise mother, and as usual she does a brilliant job. Beautiful filmmaking that gets better with each viewing.

Academy Award:  Best Actress (Susan Sarandon)
Nominations: Best Actor (Sean Penn); Best Director (Tim Robbins); Best Original Song (“Dead Man Walking”)

Berlin Film Festival Award:  Best Actor (Sean Penn)

Golden Globe Award Nominations:  Best Actor-Drama (Sean Penn); Best Actress-Drama (Susan Sarandon); Best Screenplay

Screen Actors Guild AwardBest Actress (Susan Sarandon)
Nominations: Best Actor (Sean Penn)


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