Dead Man Walking

The film Dead Man Walking is a crime drama directed by Tim Robbins in 1995. Susan Sarandon won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of the main character, Sister Helen Prejean. The film is an adaptation of a memoir of the same name written by a Catholic nun, Sister Helen Prejean, which recounts her experience visiting a man named Matthew Poncelet, played by Sean Penn, on death row.

The main theme and question raised by the film is if capital punishment is justifiable or not. Matthew Poncelet is convicted and sentenced to death for the rape and murder of two teenagers. The majority of the characters believe that this man deserves to die for his crime and they justify their beliefs based on morality, law, and religion. Sister Helen is one of the people who believe that Matthew is worth saving. During his trial, those opposing the death penalty sentence try to aid Matthew in making him appear more human by having his mother testify. It is at this trial that one of main themes is shown by the quote, “It’s easy to kill a monster, it’s hard to kill a person.” This shows that by attempting to make Matthew Poncelet appear more like a human and less like a monster, the court may overturn its ruling.

While Sister Helen does agree that he deserves to be imprisoned for his heinous crime, she does not believe that his death will bring justice to the situation. This belief sets up the main conflict of the film and puts her at odds with many other characters, such as the parents of the victims and other religious figures. One of the arguments that is used to justify sentencing Matthew Poncelet to death is that the Bible has several instances in which people are put to death for their crimes. Sister Helen Prejean likewise, uses quotes from the Bible to show that what she is fighting for is just. She references how Jesus taught his followers that it is righteous to visit people in prison and the importance of forgiveness. Few other characters in the film are able to forgive Matthew Poncelet in the way that Sister Helen is. However, her efforts are ultimately in vain, and Poncelet dies of lethal injection in the end.

Dead Man Walking brings up many questions concerning morality and judgement and to what extent a person should be punished for their crimes. It is a thought-provoking film that sheds light on a harsh reality of the world.

For more information, refer to the IMDb article.

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The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker is a modern war film directed by Kathryn Bigelow in 2009. The film won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay, among many others.

Set during the Iraq War, the plot follows an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team that rebels target with booby traps, remote control detonations, and surprise attacks. The opening depicts the death of one of the team members and the rest of the film centers around this man’s replacement, Sergeant William James, played by Jeremy Renner. Besides the constant threat of death, one the main conflict stems from the differences between Sergeant James and Sergeant J. T. Sanborn, played by Anthony Mackie. Sergeant James is depicted as being relatively laid back and often does not follow orders. Likewise, Sergeant Sanborn is depicted as being very by-the-books and always tries to follow the rules. Their opposite personalities often put them at odd with one another both during missions and during down time. This is shown through their constant arguing during a mission in which Sergeant James has to defuse a number of bombs hidden in a burned out car. During this scene he removes his headset, breaking any communication between him and the rest of the squad, putting them all in even greater danger than they were before. Sergeant Sanborn punches him afterwards because of this.

One of the main themes of the film comes from a quote shown before the beginning that reads, “The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” Throughout The Hurt Locker, this quote becomes validated several times, mainly by the character of Sergeant James. He becomes increasingly obsessed with finding and defusing bombs, initially because it is his job and people will die if he does not, but overtime he becomes fanatical about it. The scene that makes this clear is in the middle of the movie Sergeant James shows Sergeant Sanborn his box of mementos, which happen to be parts of bombs that he has defused in the past. He says that he keeps them because he likes knowing that each item in the box could have killed him but didn’t. He is entranced and addicted to the war and how it makes him feel about his life.

This theme is shown even more effectively when Sergeant James returns home to his wife and child only to be increasingly bored and disenchanted with civilian life. The film ends with him returning to the war zone in Iraq to continue defusing bombs.

For more information, refer to the IMDb article.

The Silence of the Lambs

The film The Silence of the Lambs is a crime horror about a FBI trainee who enlists the help of a serial killer in order to catch another. The film, directed by Jonathan Demme in 1991, is based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Harris. It won Academy Awards in all top five categories of Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the film deal with the two serial killers, Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill/Jame Gumb, and their similarities and differences. They are both psychopathic murders with no remorse and see their victims as objects rather than people. Buffalo Bill kidnaps women, murders them, and then uses their skin as clothing. Dr. Lecter eats the organs of people who are rude and disgraceful in his eyes. Buffalo Bill views his victims as clothing; Dr. Lecter views his as food.

The fact that these two killers both view their targets as objects and not people is where their similarities end. Their main differences are their motivations and intelligence levels. Buffalo Bill is motivated by his desire to be something that he is not. His desire to become a woman stems from his obsession with his mother; however, this is an aspect of the story that is more pronounced in the novel rather than the film. He commits these heinous acts against women in the hope of becoming a woman himself. There is a metaphor in the fact that he raises moths. A moth starts out as a caterpillar but then transforms into something else entirely. Buffalo Bill wishes to change who he is out of self-hatred, and is willing to hurt innocent people to achieve his goals.
Dr. Hannibal Lecter has no such qualms or desires to change himself. He is self-aware and intelligent. Throughout the film, he is always one step ahead of everyone else and revels in the power he holds over people because of this. He understands who and what he is and embraces it. Dr. Lecter never tries to change who he is and that is what sets him apart from Buffalo Bill.

Overall, The Silence of the Lambs is a thrilling and suspenseful film. The drama, horror, and mystery come together to create an interesting story about the behavior of murderers and how they can be used against one another.

For more information, refer to the IMDb article.

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