I am a racist! I admired Hitler but could only tattooed my body in reverential obeisance to his ideologies. I was not bold but pretended to be the one out of my fanatic indulgence into anything and everything that proves my supremacy! I was carried away with the bold and masochistic drive of my friend and joined him! I am not sure whether I was also a party to the crime. The young girl was brutally raped and killed! The young boy is shot! Did I do that? I am not sure. The only one thing on which I am sure is that, I am under solitary confinement as as Death Row Convict – Matthew Poncelet (Role played by Sean Penn)
I never believed in wearing religious habit! In fact, I think a bit louder beyond the habit and any other norms. I follow the path of atonement and firmly believe that it require lots of courage to offer your other cheek also to get bashed. I am not a preacher who found solace behind the bulwark of the cast iron theory! I believe in being with those who are in need and ensure that they realize their worth as the Son / Daughter of God. I am not party to any sect, faction, clique —- I am there for humanity! Sister Helen Prejean(Role Played by Susan Saraondon)
What is that connects the death row convict and a Nun? – Poncelet’s urge to live made him engaging in correspondence with Sister Helen. Federal Law provides provision to engage the service of spiritual advisers to those who are waiting for death sentence. It was a novel experience for Sister Helen and she obliged to take up this assignment
But she was about to start a journey which might resemble Jesus’s travel to Calvary Mountain bearing the cross. Her assignment was not a cake walk. She was given sufficient warning by Jail Authorities and Vicar. But alas —
Poncelet wanted Sister Helen’s help to represent his case to court again to get himself freed or converting death by lethal injection to be lifelong imprisonment, engage lie detector test —- He wanted to live!
Sister Helen was moved by the vulnerability of his appeal and ensures her support that ostracized her from the community and also earned the displeasure of the parents of the victims.
The unusual relation between a down to earth Nun who led a righteous living and the convict was transforming to the tumultuous events that clangour the ethical dimension of capital punishment, demand of dignified death by the convict, socio – political dimension regarding the crime and punishment, significance of religious intervention, emotional upsurge of affected parties – You are witnessing one of the most poignant depiction in celluloid!
Each character are given utmost importance and they present their case in their own fashion. We will definitely remember the supporting crews – Lois Smith (Sister Helen’s Mom), Roberta Maxwell(as Poncelet’s Mother), Robert Prosky (As lawyer who take up Poncelet’s appeal), Parents of the victims, the young brother of Poncelet —– Rarely, have I seen a movie where each and every character leaves a permanent signature across your heart.
Whether Poncelet is guilty of the charges alleged against him?
Whether he could escape from Capital Punishment?
To know more —– do watch the movie! It is worth watching again and again over a period of time.
Tim Robbins is fully justified taking the advantage to cast his wife as Sister Helen. The subtle body language and even with wink of eyes she delivered one of the finest performance in Hollywood. Sean Penn is almost eclipsed by her brilliant performance but he was wonderfully complimenting Susan Sarandon. She got academy award for best actress.
Also, the movie could bring out some of the finest music scores – The Long Road by Eddie Vedder and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Dead man walking by Bruce Springsteenare used in the movie which captured the essence of the theme.
Special reference to a brilliant cameraman behind the scene – Roger Deakins, who captured brilliant close up shots of Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon with a difference tone on the background that demand viewers attention to the subtle body language of the characters! Of course, this might have demanded a lot from the actors!
Handling a highly emotional melodrama kind of subject without stooping down to be a wrenching sentimental flick that might probe each and every one of us to empathize with the characters having diverse ideologies clearly shows the craftsmanship of the director. Tim Robbins could summon the right talent and engage them to get the best out of them.
In short, this movie in addition to the visual delight will also serve as an encyclopaedia of film making. If possible, do not wink your eyes — you might lose a million dollar worth performance! Strongly recommended!