Trial by Fire (2018)

Laura Dern, Jack O'Connell, Emily Meade, Jason Douglas,
Trial by Fire is a movie starring Laura Dern, Jack O'Connell, and Emily Meade. The tragic and controversial story of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in Texas for killing his three children after scientific evidence and...
  • 7.1 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Geoffrey Fletcher, David Grann, Writer:
  • Edward Zwick, Director:
  • Kipp Nelson, Alex Soros, Allyn Stewart, Producer:


6 / 10

Has Some Good Parts, But Fails Overall

The acting is very good in this film, and there are a few scenes that are really great by themselves, but the sum of the parts does not hold up quite so well.

I think the problem is that the story is one we've seen over and over again and the characters feel somewhat flat, at least to a certain degree. Do not recommend.

6 / 10

Well intended death row drama is too obvious

(I am surprised that Amazon doesn't have a listing of this yet as a future DVD release, as it usually does for movies currently playing in theaters. But to be clear, this is a review of the MOVIE, not of the movie's poster.)

"Trial By Fire" (2018 release; 127 min.) brings the story of "baby killer" Todd Willingham. As the movie opens, it is "December 23, 1991, Corsicana, TX", as we see a guy just barely escaping a burning house and screaming "my babies are burning!". Turns out his three young daughters were still inside the house, and perished. T's not long before the Corsicana police and fire department start looking into the matter, and conclude that the guy started an arson, and before we know it, Todd, refusing to take a plea bargain, is convicted and sentenced to death... At this point we are less than 15 min. into the movie, and you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this is the latest movie from producer-director Edward Zwick. Here he takes on the notorious case of the Texas Baby killer. It is a death row drama that is well intended (exposing social injustice), but alas is brought with the subtlety of a bull in a china store: "this is capital punishment: if you ain't got no capital, you'll get punished", comments an inmate at some point. This may well be true, but the movie bashes your head with this message over and over (cops: BAD, every single one of them! Texas judicial system: crooked through and through! in every single case!), and it simply becomes a tiring viewing experience. Laura Dern appears 45 min. into the movie as the well-meaning woman who (for reasons never explained) decides to take up correspondence with Todd (in the form of actual letters back and forth). Be sure to stick around until the end credits roll, as Zwick includes an actual news clip of then-Texas governor Rick Perry...

"Trial By Fire" premiered at last year's Telluride film festival to ho-hum reaction, and is now getting a limited theater release. The movie recently opened at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. The Monday Memorial Day early evening screening where I saw this at was attended so-so (about 10 people), and I honestly can't see this playing very long in theaters. If you are in the mood for a death row drama os simply are a fan of Laura Dern or Robert Zwick, I encourage you to check this out, be it in the theater (not very likely), on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.

8 / 10

Texas Prison Conditions

This is the true story of Cameron Todd Willingham (Jack O'Connell) a Texas Man with a somewhat Checkered Past that is Found Guilty of Murdering his 3 Children for the Insurance Money via Arson and sent to Death Row. The Film begins with a Fire at the House that Kills the children but a grieving Todd barely escapes. Then he and his wife Stacy (Emily Meade) who was at work during the Fire are taken in by Police for questioning. After a bunch of accusations by Police the couple are released but then Todd is arrested and charged with Murder. There is an investigation then Todd is rapidly sent to Trial and even more rapidly found guilty and sentenced to Death. The Death Row of the Prison has horrific conditions and Todd is brutally handled by at First, by the MEAN Guards and ridiculed as a Baby Killer by other Prisoners. He is abandoned by his wife and has very little Family, so as Time passes, 12 years in fact, he with the help of a neighboring inmate get some Legal Books and his Trial Transcript and begin to find a way to Appeal. There are quite a few Court Room scenes and Lawyers filing motions thru out the Movie. After a chance meeting with a stranger who she helps, Elizabeth Gilbert Liz (Laura Dern) is asked to participate in a program to help out Prisoners on Death Row. She goes to the Prison and meets Todd and is immediately smitten with his plight. Once she begins to look into the Trial she is convinced that Todd is innocent and that his State appointed Attorney did a terrible Job and got help from a corrupt system. The countdown to his death begins and the rush to get a Stay of Execution...Even the Mean Guards befriend him as they are NFL Cowboys Fans too. The relationship between Todd and Liz comes to a boiling point, but I felt it really drives the story. There are sub plots with Elizabeth's real Children, Girl Friends and dying ex husband and how they question her motivation to be involved in this at all. The performances by the Lead Actors are outstanding ! The Film kept me engaged throughout and I rooted for the characters which was enriching . It might be a frame or 2 long and I did not like how the Wife basically betrays him near the end, otherwise Good Movie !! The politics of the Death Penalty are addressed during credits. Laura Dern should get some Oscar attention for this role and maybe Director Edward Zwick as well

9 / 10

More than a movie it's a survival guide to our justice system

This is a true story that happens all of the time here in America. Willingham story is real and more common that people want to believe. I live in Texas and have seen it with my own eyes. This movie hits the nail on the head with one line "The system is broken"

1 / 10

Liberal Garbage Propaganda

This Is a Message Movie-Cops and The State Of Texas Are Evil and Only Liberal Democrats Care About People-When in Reality Democrats Could Care Less About The Truth and About The Death Penalty.Its All About Dividing People And Getting There Votes To Stay In Power.Democrats Could Care Less For Gays or The Black Man.I Mean Just What Have They Actually Done ??Hollywood And The MSM Are Nothing But Liberal Propaganda Machines..Stay Away From This Movie If You Seek The Truth..