I had seen a preview when I went to see Adaptation. I spent that short snippet of time wavering back and forth as to whether I wanted to see the movie itself. I was predisposed toward it by director Alan Parker (oh yes, The Wall was a formative film for me, yes indeed) and lead Kevin Spacey (after seeing The Usual Suspects I'd watch him in just about anything, including a dramatized recitation of the New Jersey telephone directory). But I was leery of a movie about the death penalty - it's an issue I have complicated feelings about, it's an issue that polarizes people rapidly to extremes of opinion, and it's an issue that it's all too easy to get heavy-handed about. I didn't want to be beaten over the head about it, even with an opinion I happened to share (should the film fall out that way). Then I had an opportunity to score a free pass from the kind folks who sponsor SIFF. So the price was right, beating or no.
I'm glad I went. It's thematically rich, well paced, and very moving. As much as it is about the death penalty and the thorny shades-of-gray issues surrounding it, it also addresses how everything in life is complicated and multifaceted, whether the ends justify the means, how damning accusations can be even when charges are dropped, just how shallow 'innocent until proven guilty' can be...
It has some grim spots. This is not a movie to which to take your infant children - which I would think would be obvious, but someone had a wailing child with them at the last showing of the Two Towers I attended, so clearly clueful parenting aboundeth not. I think it shook a lot of people up, at the showing last night, but mostly in an "I'll have to think about this" way. Which is pretty much the point, IMuHO.
I recommend it highly. It was an extra bonus that the special guest for the Q&A afterward turned out to be Mr. Spacey himself. A very pleasant and entertaining speaker, touring with the film on the condition that in addition to the word-of-mouth screenings like last night, there be a campus showing with Q&A in each city as well. While waiting in line, I'd seen Men With Camera Equipment going by, so I knew the guest speaker was probably either Spacey or Parker.
A very well-done, gripping drama I would have been happy to pay full price for, even at the overly-inflated Pacific Place rates. Very gratifying to see a film take on such complicated issues without trying to reduce them to black and white.