I had very mixed feelings about Dead Man Walking. Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn were both phenomenal. Had it been the Susan Sarandon/Sean Penn show, I would have been far more into it. As it is, there are too many scenes, mostly early on, that play like a debate.
All films, by their very nature, are manipulative. But when you can feel that manipulation, something is wrong. It's what I hate about Nicholas Sparks stories. I could feel it in Dead Man Walking. I could feel a screenwriter concocting the most polarizing circumstances upon which to put the death penalty up for debate. It felt like an issue movie and that is bad bad bad. When you have such a specific issue being parsed in a film, you've got to almost subvert it. Hide it under the stories of real people.
When it was just Sean Penn and Susan Sarandan, talking, arcing, being, they felt like real people. It felt like reality. But scenes with the parents of the victims, with prison guards, with lawyers and politicians - all that felt like fat. And the score was terribly over the top and dramatic.
I will say - that screen cap up there? That was a neat effect - being able to see her reactions in the reflection of the glass. Pat on the back, Tim Robbins.