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Gene Hackman's electrifying performance dominates this adaptation of John Grisham's best selling novel. Hackman portrays Sam Cayhall, a man who's been on death row for sixteen years for the bombing of a lawyer's office that resulted in the death of the lawyer's two children. Cayhall is a vile man, who has lived a life of hatred and prejudice, the result of generations of such bigoted ancestors. Enter Chris O'Donnell as his young grandson, who is a lawyer and wants to reopen the case and spare his grandfather the gas chamber. What ensues is a painful exploration of hatred, prejudice and a dysfunctional family.

I liked the movie, in spite of its several flaws. Hackman is phenomenal, and Chris O'Donnell does a good job as the naively innocent, but determined, young barrister. Faye Dunaway offers wonderful support as Hackman's estranged daughter who has lived a life of secrecy and guilt. Lela Rochon, Raymond Barry, David Marshall Grant and Robert Prosky offer fine support too.

I found myself involved in the movie, and feel it didn't offer any easy answers. Hackman is a guilty man, but his performance is so well doone that one can't help but feel sorry for the life he has chosen, and the life he has sacrificed.

I think it's well worth viewing.
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on December 31, 1999
"The Chamber" is long, quiet and infinitely better the second time around, which makes it pretty seriously good indeed. Whatever you think of the plot and the completely salient points it makes on the subject of capital punishment the true joys of "The Chamber" are the performances of Faye Dunaway and Gene Hackman each of which are nothing short of astonishing. Dunaway's creation of Cayhall's daughter is as powerful, multi-layered and profound as anything she has ever done. Gene Hackman deserves to be inducted into the great actors hall of fame for his portrayal of Sam Cayhall. As his execution draws closer his moods swing through the gamut of human emotion creating a complete and almost unbearably real but flawed human person facing certain death. A best actor oscar should have been given for this performance. If acting is your job or something that you see all too rarely ignore the carping critics who found their sensibilities rubbed the wrong way and get "The Chamber" it improves with each viewing and says some very deep things about life and exactly what it means to be human. Highly recommended.
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on April 20, 1999
i had to watch the chamber as part of a class project and i thought it would be a typical story witha happy ending as usual grisham writes a top rated book which gets you at the heart and leans on the subject of the gas chamber - a truly excellent book which gets you thinking that you don't know what freedom is until it is taken away
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on December 7, 2013
Okay, so this film isn't what most Grisham fans, especially those who have seen adaptions such as "The Firm" and "The Rainmaker", and the author himself were hoping for, but it wasn't all bad. For one thing, it had Gene Hackman playing the aged condemned Klansman Sam Cayhall, a role Mr. Hackman aced. Chris O'Donnell wasn't all bad as Adam Hall, though this film was released not far from "Batman and Robin" so I involuntarily find myself making an unfavorable comparison between these two of Mr. O'Donnell's roles...he has better ones in the future once people have had a chance to recover from the trauma of that Batman disaster. Ultimately timing seems to have been against the young lad during this film. My other beef with this picture is it's noticeable deviations from it's source material. I consider "The Chamber" to be a classic Grisham work and one of my favorites in his bibliography, which is why I wanted to see this film. I certainly have no problem with a book's film adaptions steering away a bit from it's source material (i.e. The Shawshank Redemption), but when the alterations to the plot just don't work, that's when a film suffers. For example, this film's plot device of a secret society sanctioned by the state government (at the very least) being in league with the KKK was just an over-the-top attempt to explain racism in Mississippi during the Civil Rights era...the book's way of explaining that same issue may create some fictional events, but those are on a much smaller scale and are properly incoperated into history...therefore, the book's way works. As for the villain, Raymond J. Barry's role of Rollie Wedge was expanded from it's source material in the hopes that Jack Nickelson would take up the role. Unfortunetly that didn't happen. I'm not convinced that Mr. Barry couldn't have handled the role. Rather, I criticize the way the character was written in this adaption. I wasn't entirely thrilled with the character in the book either as he seemed to be too slick and undetectible in there. I think a hybrid of the book and movie versions would have made for the perfect villain for this plot. I did like that the FBI in the film knew something about him whereas they were completely unaware that he had even been born in the book. Perhaps he ought to have been more slick in the film but allow the FBI to know something anyway...they are pretty good. Also, having pose as the condemned man's brother without us having met any real brother (another deviation as we met one brother in the book) lessoned the impact of suspense that that scene could have had. But, for all the dissappointments that this film gave to Grisham loyalists like myself, the acting was still solid and the plot was just similar enough to the book that we can make the connection. If you're a die-hard Grisham fan who must have it all, include this in your collection. Otherwise, I'll leave it up to you. Enjoy.
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on July 13, 2015
I guess I have seen all the Grisham movies. For me, this was the darkest and most gory. If you are looking for something smart and funny like Rainmaker or Runaway Jury, this is a little different. This movie addresses a number of difficult social issues such as racism and the death penalty in a very up-front and graphic way. I don't think it will spoil it too much by giving you one warning: Do not have the volume up to high for the first few scenes unless you have clean undergarments ready.
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on December 4, 2015
Well acted story, but apparently scenes from the book were left out which would've clarified motives, relationships and actions better. Good enough, yet felt incomplete as to tying everything together.
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on March 31, 2002
I've enjoyed the movie twice & am adding it to my collection.
Gene Hackman is terrific as usual. Faye Dunaway even better in this particuar movie.
I wasn't familar with the story & hadn't heard of the book, just walked into the movie out of the blue one night because I saw Gene Hackman was in it.
Enjoyed it very much!!!
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on March 24, 2013
I ARGUED WITH MYSELF IN GIVING THIS FILM 2 STARS OR 3. BUT MY RESPECT FOR GENE HACKMAN GAVE IT A PASSING GRADE. THE PROBLEM WITH THIS FILM LIES IN THE CHARACTER OF CHRIS O'DONNELL WHO NEEDS TO TAKE SOME ACTING LESSONS FROM HACKMAN. HIS CHARACTER NEVER SEEMS TO DEVELOP OR MORPH FROM THE BOYISH CHARACTER HE BEGINS WITH. HIS ACTING TAKES AWAY ANY TENSION OR DEVELOPMENT IN THE FILM'S GROWTH. HACKMAN ON THE OTHER HAND GIVES A FINE PERFORMANCE AS A KLAN MAN WHO UNDERSTANDS HIS MORAL OBLIGATION IN SETTING HIMSELF FREE FROM THE RACIST GROUP HE HAS JOINED.
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on August 20, 2012
I wonder how some people can rate an exceptional movie mediocre, when it is really an incredible work of art. I found this movie to be touching, at the end it was a tearjerker. Not because I felt sorry for the murder, but because he was made to seem human. Too many times we fail in American society to accept that we have different peoples in our country that are a product of that society. We are taught to hate and dislike one another from our environment. Faye Dunaway and Gene Hackmen gave Acadamy award winner performances as far as I was concerned. And I think anyone that walkway from this movie without a tear is not human.
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on November 2, 2013
I am a true fan of Gene Hackman. That's why I rented this movie. That and I was out of the US and couldn't watch TV shows through Amazon or Netflix or Hulu. I wish they would fix that problem. Anyway the movie is fairly true to the book, well acted and quite enjoyable.
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