CINEMA: THE EXECUTIONEE'S SONG

HERE'S A NEW YEAR'S SURPRISE: TIM ROBBINS WRITES AND DIRECTS A WRENCHING BUT UNPREACHY DRAMA ABOUT CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

THE ACHIEVEMENT OF DEAD MAN Walking is quite a simple one: at its end you don't know where Tim Robbins, its writer-director, stands on the issue of capital punishment. Considering that there is no more tendentious topic available to a filmmaker, Robbins' restraint, his determination to explore the moral and psychological nuances of the relationship that develops between Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn), a man condemned to death for his participation in a heinous crime, and Sister Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon), who becomes his spiritual counselor in his final months, is exemplary.

And in a way surprising, since Robbins and Sarandon, a...

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