Monday, January 25, 2010

best films: #27: DEAD MAN WALKING (1995)

Previously ranked and blogged at #49
You'd be hard pressed to find a more deserving showcase piece for two talented actors than Dead Man Walking. Telling the true story of Sister Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon) and her spiritual advising for Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn), a convicted killer on death row, the movie follows Prejean's struggle to decide whether or not to stick it out with the grisly, neo-Nazi Poncelet. It's drama at its best, with Sarandon and Penn giving the best performances of their respective careers. Penn is terrifying and yet strangely human as the cold-blooded killer, and he commands most scenes he occupies with his disturbing thoughts on society. Sarandon is believably moving as her character struggles with her faith, and her friends and family question her decision to counsel the prisoner. Along with the showpieces from the two stars, it features great supporting turns from character actresses Margo Martindale and Roberta Maxwell, as Sarandon's fellow nun friend and Penn's shut-in mother, respectively.

Standout Performance: I absolutely refuse to pick just one of the two stars, so it's simply a tie, as they are both equally moving portrayals.


Andrew K. said...

Well said, this film is excellent and those two performances are smashing. Some of the best work of the nineties.

dudleysharp said...

How do you know it is a true story?

Sister Helen Prejean & the death penalty: A Critical Review
From Dudley Sharp

" . . .makes you realize the Dead Man Walking truly belongs on the shelf in the library in the Fiction category."

"Being devout Catholics, 'the norm' would be to look to the church for support and healing. Again, this need for spiritual stability was stolen by Sister Prejean."

The Bourques, Victim Survivors, Dead Family Walking

"Sister Helen Prejean & the death penalty: A Critical Review"

"Death Penalty Support: Christian Scholars"

"The Death Penalty: Neither Hatred nor Revenge"

"The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents"

"The Innocent Executed: Deception & Death Penalty Opponents"

"Killing equals Killing: The Amoral Confusion of Death Penalty Opponents"

"The Death Penalty: Not a Human Rights Violation"

"Physicians & The State Execution of Murderers: No Ethical/Medical Dilemma"

"Pope John Paul II: Prudential Judgement and the death penalty"

"At the Death House Door" Can Rev. Carroll Pickett be trusted?"