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Dead Man Walking (Blu-ray Review)

The hits just keep on hitting here at Why So Blu.  Up next is a tale of crime, redemption, and punishment in Tim Robbin’s Dead Man Walking. Another popular film from the mid 90’s starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn.  Dead Man Walking makes its debut on Blu-ray in the states and this is our review.  In fact, this will be our THIRD Blu-ray review that features relationships (of some kind) and dysfunction (of some kind) and how they will or will not resolve themselves.  Dead Man Walking is another film that I thought was released 8-9 years ago.  Well, you better make that 16 years ago!  *gets a flashback*  So how will Dead Man Walking on Blu-ray fare?  Walk with me and see for yourself. 

Film 

Dead Man Walking is based on the book of the same name written by Sister Helen Prejean and stars Susan Sarandon (in an Oscar winning performance) and Sean Penn (in an Oscar nominated role).  Sister Helen Prejean leads an average life working at a rundown education center for the poor in a rundown neighborhood in Louisiana.  One day she gets some correspondence from a prisoner by the name of Matthew Poncelet (Penn) asking for her help in clearing his name.  Matthew is also on death row.

Sister Prejean has never dealt with anything like this before, but she accepts his invitation to meet up at the prison.  Once they’re face to face Matthew tells her that he’s innocent and that the state will be executing a wrongfully convicted person.  Sister Prejean takes on the role of his spiritual adviser.  The victim’s families don’t take kindly to Sister Prejean helping Matthew; instead of helping him she should be helping the grieving.  As a servant of God a soul is a soul in her eyes.

I had never seen Dead Man Walking before (a first, huh) but I already knew how it would end.  The meat and potatoes of the film do not rely on the obvious ending, but in leading up to it.  Will Sister Prejean save Matthew’s soul and by doing so save her own?  What drives the film forward are the very strong performances by the two leads and several of the supporting characters.  Tim Robbin’s directing style is never heavy handed or of a “preaching” sort.

In the end of Dead Man Walking one of the more glaring questions may be asked and it is do two wrongs make a right?  Yes, I am also aware of Tim and Susan’s real life activism work and believe me when I tell you that Dead Man Walking is not littered with “propaganda” or an attitude of “this is how it should be” fluff.   Dead Man Walking is a quiet and sincere film that tells a great story, showcases some great acting, and features a couple of cameo roles by Clancy Brown and Jack Black.  Yes, Jack Black. 

Video 

Dead Man Walking is presented in 1080p 1.85:1 widescreen.  There’s a nice layer of film grain present throughout the film.  Contrast seems a little boosted and there’s also a slight haze, but it could just be the bayou, though.  I did notice in the very beginning of the film when I actually walked up to the screen and noticed what I initially thought were moles on people were actually tiny dirt spots.  They are very small, they did not move, but were there even when the camera changed shots back and forth.  It was weird.  I wonder if the source has these tiny specs baked in or something.  They were gone after a few minutes and they did not distract from the overall presentation.  Colors are somewhat bold but not remarkable.  Skin tones look nice and natural.

Audio  

Dead Man Walking is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1.  Dead Man Walking is a dialogue driven film and it is very good in that department.  Music is also one of the stars of show and the score really takes advantage of all the discrete channels without coming down hard over the dialogue.  Dave Robbins composed the score (Tim’s brother) and it’s very good.  Ambient sounds also come through as there are several scenes that take place outdoors and in the woods.

Special Features

Dead Man Walking contains an audio commentary by Tim Robbins and a trailer.

  • Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Tim Robbins
  • Theatrical Trailer

Final Thoughts 

Dead Man Walking is an emotional journey that takes two characters from very opposite sides of the tracks, puts them in a room,  and forces them to confront their inner conflicts. It’s story of faith, right and wrong, and forgiveness. You could say that Dead Man Walking is also a story about redemption, but not in the traditional sense since we pretty much know how it will end.  Sarandon and Penn play of off each other with such finesse that it’s sometimes impossible to tell whether they’re acting or not.  I also think that Penn’s pompadour is cool. 

 

Order Dead Man Walking on Blu-ray!


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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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