Dead Man Walking (1996)

Dead Man Walking (1996)

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Dead Man Walking (1996)

The film dead man walking was released in 1996 by MRM and directed by
Tim Robbins (Husband of the starring female actor Susan Sarandon; It
is a tale of a murderer and a rapist Mathew Poncelet, Poncelet is soon
to be put to death, alone and afraid he writes to a nun Sister
Prejean, despite the warnings for various people, she organises a
visit to the prison to visit him, from the moment they meet she has
mixed feelings as is the film it is saying that Poncelets death is a
waste of life, however he brutally murdered two people. Most films of
this genre are one handed, either for or against the death penalty,
this is an exception for it does not aim to enforce one side of the
argument, it was produced to educate and entertain, rather than to
make decisions for the audience.

The most emotive part of the film is definitely the execution scene,
Poncelet's appeal has failed and when Sister Prejean tells him the
news, the hope fails from his eyes, he knows that he is quite
literally a "Dead man walking."

"Its easy to kill a monster, its hard to kill a man, we must make sure
they see you as a man" This quote sums up the film, Mathew Poncelet is
an evil man, however, he is not a monster because a man has two faces,
a good and an evil where a monster has but one face - which is evil.

During the execution scene, the idea of Man, Monster is shown
amazingly well, the flashbacks show the crime, however Mathew Poncelet
is crying, he is a coward and cannot face up to what he has done, this
makes us feel empathy for him- perhaps he isn't as tough as he's made
out to be. Poncelet wanted a hymn to be played at his execution, this
wont be allowed, the audience gets the impression that he is being
unfairly treated here, again we feel sympathy and empathy for him. The
next scene is slow motion, we see his feet, he's wearing slippers and

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a nappy this makes him look pathetic and retarded like he cant look
after himself.

He is strapped onto the bed, we are reminded of Sister Prejeans
conversation with a man, who said that it was his job to strap down
the leg of the prisoner, the music is cut and the audience is waiting
for what is to come, the flashbacks become intense now, they become
longer and clearer. The table which he is lying on is lifted vertical
and his arms are spread out like Christ- perhaps this is making a
point, how much has our society evolved if two thousand years after
the execution of Christ we are still killing people, then there's a
close up on his face, seemingly coincidentally Poncelet looks a lot
like the devil, again the director is keeping even handed. Poncelet
now apologizes to the parents of the children he murdered and makes an
important quote "I hope that my death may bring you some comfort" he
says this to the parent's of the girl who was raped and murdered. Then
he makes a speech to all the audience, possibly the most important
quote in the film "I think killing is wrong, whether its me that's
doing it, or you, or you're government" This is basically his final

The actual murder and rape are now shown in the form of the
flashbacks, as each bullet is shot the machine injects a chemical into
him, each shot makes the same noise as the clicking of the machine, we
see Sister Prejeans hand stretched forward to his. He sees the bulge
in the pipe; he knows that his death is inevitable, we see the clock.
Now he slowly dies, we see his face then we see a reflection in the
glass of the two children who he killed fully clothed- there spirits
are now free. We see Poncelets face- his eyes go wide as if he has
just had a hit of a drug, now he dies. He looks peaceful and calm; all
three souls have been put to rest at the same time. This scene now
leaves the prison, out into the woods where the two children are lying
naked in the same position as Poncelet, this makes the point that at
the end of the day when all's said and done, is it really right to
take a life for taking a life?"

There is now a fade out shot into Poncelet's Funeral, the father of
the boy goes to the funeral but he is confused as to why he is there,
Sister Prejean offers to help him move on, he says that he doesn't
think that will happen, he can not forgive and forget that easily.

In conclusion, the film dead man walking is amazingly complex in its
analysis of the death penalty, it shows without telling which must be
a hard skill for the director, to stay neutral in a topic, which he
may or may not have a strong opinion on. If he had stuck to one
opinion, for or against the death penalty he may have lost some of his
audience, he shared out the positives and the negatives well, using
the flashbacks as the way to remind the reader that he had done rape
and murder, showing the human side of him to produce pity.

There are many arguments both for and against the death penalty:


One doesn't need to pay for them to be locked up

It's getting dangerous people of the streets

Some people would not be affected by jail

It can be less emotional than keeping someone locked up for life

Deterrent to others if they believe that they'll die because of it

Some offences are so horrendous that there's only one possible penalty
for it

Its more kind to kill them rather than 'Playing' with them

Some people would want to die rather than

Its guaranteed to be humane- some people would be tortured slowly when
they were released from jail by the victims friends and family


Sets a bad example

It's a life for a life

It doesn't show forgiveness

It can be argued that it is immoral

If a jury has to decide whether someone is guilty- they will be more
likely to give them the benefit of the doubt if they think they'll
only be going to jail, they'll need to be 100% definite before they
send someone to be executed

Sometimes the guilty person may not have been in complete control of
his or her body- either because of narcotics or because of mental
defect, the former of these applied to Mathew Poncelet's case, the
latter would apply more often, people choose to take drugs- Mental
Defect is not a voluntary action.
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