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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2011

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"Dead Man Walking" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-june-2011-deadman

Synopsis

Sister Helen Prejean (Sarandon) receives a letter from death-row inmate Matthew Poncelet (Penn) requesting spiritual and legal assistance.  She has never met with a convict before but she decides to visit him.  What follows is a spiritual journey for both parties as he struggles to come to grips with what he’s done and that he is about to die for his crimes.  Sister Helen has her faith tested as she not only gets to know Poncelet but also the parents of the two victims of the crime.  When the appeals run out and the execution becomes inevitable, he finally repents for his sins.

Specifications

  • Metro Goldwyn Mayer
  • 1995, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 2 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn
  • Directed by Tim Robbins
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

To say this film is emotionally charged would be a gross understatement.  Not only is the subject matter intense, the performances given by Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn are simply breathtaking.  Though I never sympathized for the killer, I couldn’t help but react to the final scenes of his life when he confesses the truth to Sister Helen and she gives him the full measure of her love and faith.  Dead Man Walking was nominated for Oscars in the Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Original Song categories with a win going to Susan Sarandon.  Though the violence is depicted in short bursts, the brutality of the rape and murder are fairly graphic, especially near the end.  The movie is based on a book written by the real Sister Helen Prejean.  The material is dark but I highly recommend Dead Man Walking to anyone who wants to see great actors at the top of the craft.

Technical

Picture quality is superb with a nice film-like quality throughout.  There is just the right amount of grain, and lo and behold – no edge enhancement!  Detail is just right for the subject matter and color is very natural.  Occasionally flesh tones have an ever-so-slight reddish cast but it only caused me to dock a half star.  Contrast is quite good though there is almost no dark material to really judge black levels by.  Lighting is done extremely well during interior scenes which make up the bulk of the film.

Audio is decent with good clarity and detail.  The vast majority of the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack consists of dialog and it is presented well.  My only complaint is Sean Penn was sometimes difficult to understand in his thick Southern drawl.  This may be as much the fault of the actor as the sound reproduction.  Music is used sparsely but I did enjoy Bruce Springsteen’s Oscar-nominated song “Dead Man Walking” during the ending credits.

Extras

The only bonus features are director commentary from Tim Robbins and a theatrical trailer.