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The thing that stands out the most about “Dead Man Walking” is the story. The film is about the death penalty, and the tragic events that lead to it. The story follows Poncelot, a convicted killer, and Helen, a nun, who meet during Poncelot’s death row period, and they both change each other. Poncelot is accused of killing a young couple, and is placed on death row. He writes to Sister Helen, who agrees to come to the prison and visit him. Poncelot immediately says he did not commit the crime, and Helen believes the prisoner. Helen gets Poncelot an attorney, but the attorney fails and Poncelot is sure to be executed by the government. The film does not state a clear bias for the death penalty, but it gives the viewer the chance to decide if capital punishment is right or wrong. At the beginning of the film, the viewer is lead to believe that maybe Poncelot did not actually commit the crime, so someone might believe that his execution would be unfair. During the course of the film, the viewer sees the affects of the victim’s family and the community reactions, and whoever is watching probably feels that whoever actually committed the crime should definitely be punished as harshly as possible. When Poncelot tells Helen that he did indeed commit the crime, the viewer’s feelings about him receiving the death penalty probably change again, but there is so much emotion going on in the scene that one can not help but feel sorry.
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The acting in “Dead Man Walking” is probably one the best jobs I have
seen, and the acting is one of the reasons why this film is so great. I have never liked the actor Sean Penn, but my feelings for him have changed drastically after seeing this movie and seeing “Mystic River”. I tried to think of a performance that compares to Penn’s job, but I could not think of even one. Susan Sarandon also does an incredible job portraying a nun that is not totally sure about herself and what she stands for. Both Penn and Sarandon deliver perfect acting duties, but some of the credit can be given to the director Tim Robbins.
Dead Man Walking deals with a very controversial subject, but is able to bring it to the screen with great passion. The story, the acting, and the directing are all outstanding, and contribute to this movie being so great. The film does not come out and state an opinion over the death penalty, but it gives the viewer reasons to like or dislike it.