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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


The Chamber
Directed by James Foley
Universal Studios Home Video 10/96 DVD/VHS Feature Film
R - violent images, some language

The Chamber is the fifth screen adaptation of a John Grisham novel. Sam Cayhall (Gene Hackman in a mesmerizing performance) is a rabid Ku Klux Klan member who has been sentenced to death in the gas chamber for the 1967 murder of the two young sons of a civil rights lawyer.

One man who can stay his execution is the Governor of Mississippi (David Marshall Grant) who as the state's district attorney was responsible for convicting Cayhall. The other man who can save him is his grandson Adam (Chris O'Donnell), a 26-year-old lawyer who wants to exorcise family demons — especially the reasons behind his father's suicide at the age of 35.

With the assistance of Nora Stark (Lela Rochon), the governor's African-American legal aid, Adam tries to find out whether Cayhall acted alone or whether, as "a good and loyal soldier" of the KKK, he is taking the rap for someone else.

Under the direction of James Foley, the screenplay by William Goldman and Chris Reese focuses on the rookie lawyer's desperate attempts to save his grandfather who is scheduled to be executed in 28 days. Adam gleans further insights into his dysfunctional family tree through Sam's alcoholic daughter (Faye Dunaway).

The Chamber is an emotionally affecting drama that shows that healing is possible across the generations. It also reveals death in the gas chamber to be a most cruel form of punishment.


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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

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