‘Trial By Fire’

Through the telling of a single story, director Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai, Love & Other Drugs) looks to the enactment of the death penalty in Texas and the many resulting miscarriages of justice.

Having spent 12 years in prison for the murder of his three young daughters, Cameron Todd Willingham (Jack O’Donnell – ’71, Money Monster) was executed in spite of scientific evidence and expert testimony supporting his claims of innocence. Tried and sentenced in his home town, the philandering, wife-beating Willingham was deeply unpopular, reflected in the travesty of a trial. It’s only years later when writer Laura Dern (Marriage Story, Wild) starts to visit him does the truth start to come out.

A film of two halves, Trial By Fire at its best is a well-paced family tragedy/courtroom drama but which loses impetus as the narrative settles into a (predictable) determination by Dern to see justice – even at the expense of alienating her own teenage children. O’Donnell is excellent as the wronged inmate but the film ultimately settles into an unsubtle crusade against the death penalty.

Rating: 50%

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.