'Trial By Fire' [DVD]
(Laura Dern, Jack O'Connell, Emily Meade, Jeff Perry, Jade Pettyjohn, et al / DVD / R / 2019 / LGF)
Overview: In 1992, Cameron Todd Willingham (Jack O’ Connell), a poor, uneducated heavy metal devotee with a violent streak, was convicted of arson-related triple homicide and put on death row.
'Trial by Fire' is the true-life Texas story of the unlikely bond that formed between Willingham and Elizabeth Gilbert (Laura Dern), a Houston mother of two, who battled against the state for 12 years to try and save Willingham by exposing suppressed evidence and illogical conclusions.
DVD Verdict: Director Edward Zwick and writer Geoffrey Fletcher have movingly crafted a biopic about convicted killer Cameron Todd Willingham (Jack O'Connell) in the late nineties executed for killing his three children in a fire, that's for darn sure.
While there are multiple instances of the filmmakers morphing incidents to make strong their case against capital punishment in Texas, the impressive facts in the case swayed the jury and the parole board and the public.
Yet Elizabeth Gilbert (Laura Dern), a Houston playwright, befriends him and finds strong evidence that he may have had a weak defense, local justice withheld proof of innocence, and forensic evidence showing no arson, was all garnered too late.
Although more than half of the film is spent on unnecessary setup, when the biopic gets to Liz unearthing new evidence, it becomes on fire, so to speak.
That last half has moments of tension while at the same time following the Hollywood formula of manipulating music, questionable coincidences, and charming convict.
Although clearly the filmmakers make the case that his case was bungled, they also make sure to depict Todd as a redneck loudmouth unlikeable by any stretch, until, that is, he has time to educate himself and be contrite.
Dern and O'Connell are convincing in their roles as unlikely friends, with a hint of romance, the film's singular weakness being not connecting them earlier and getting to the evidence gathering sooner. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
The 'Trial by Fire' DVD will include a Photo Gallery and Theatrical Trailer and will be available for the suggested retail price of $19.98.
'Trial By Fire' Trailer