Dern’s passion for the subject matter informs her performance. She feels very strongly about exonerating innocent inmates, just as Gilbert did. Watching her, as Gilbert, trying her damnedest to save Todd from death is a heartbreaking yet inspiring process. It’s also incredibly fascinating to witness the bond that a metalhead alcoholic and an upper-middle-class playwright form through empathy and compassion.
“…incredibly fascinating to witness the bond that a metalhead alcoholic and an upper-middle-class playwright form through empathy and compassion.”
The fact that Trial By Fire is based on a true story makes it all the sadder. I was crying at several points throughout the film because there are so many times where things come close to getting resolved and then cut short. The ending is especially devastating, so be warned. The film is absolutely worth seeing if only to observe how corrupt the criminal justice system can be, and how badly it needs to be reformed, especially in states like Texas.
The performances are inspired. Laura Dern is excellent, as always. It was also my introduction to Jack O’Connell, who is phenomenal as Cameron Todd Willingham. My only complaint is that there are some not so wonderful CGI fire effects in places, but it doesn’t take anything away from the good parts of the film. Trial By Fire is a solid indictment against the death penalty and all its associated barbarism, which makes it a worthwhile watch.