The Chamber (1996 film)
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''The Chamber'' is a 1996 American
crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper ...
thriller film Thriller film, also known as suspense film or suspense thriller, is a broad film genre that evokes excitement and suspense in the audience. The suspense element found in most films' plots is particularly exploited by the filmmaker in this genre. T ...
based on
John Grisham John Ray Grisham Jr. (; born February 8, 1955) is an American novelist and lawyer known for his popular legal thrillers. According to the Academy of Achievement, American Academy of Achievement, Grisham has written 28 consecutive number-one best ...

John Grisham
's 1994
novel of the same name A novel is a relatively long work of narrative fiction, typically written in prose and published as a book. The present English word for a long work of prose fiction derives from the for "new", "news", or "short story of something new", itself ...
. The film was directed by James Foley and stars
Gene Hackman Eugene Allen Hackman (born January 30, 1930) is an American retired actor, novelist, and United States Marine. In a career that has spanned more than six decades, Hackman has won two Academy Awards The Academy Awards, popularly known as th ...
and
Chris O'Donnell Christopher Eugene O'Donnell (born June 26, 1970) is an American actor and former model. He played Charlie Sims in '' Scent of a Woman'', Chris Reece in ''School Ties ''School Ties'' is a 1992 American sports film, sports-Drama (film and tele ...
.


Plot

In April 1967, the office of Marvin Kramer, a
Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2ISO The International Organization for Standardization (ISO; ) is an international standard are technical standards developed by international organizations (intergovernmental organizations), suc ...

Jewish
civil rights Civil and political rights are a class of rights Rights are law, legal, social, or ethics, ethical principles of Liberty, freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to ...
lawyer A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney at law, barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdiction (area), jurisdictions. Barristers mostly specialise in courtroom advocacy and litigat ...

lawyer
in
Indianola, Mississippi Indianola is a U.S. city in Sunflower County, Mississippi, in the Mississippi Delta. The population was 10,683 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Sunflower County. History In 1891, Minnie M. Cox was appointed postmaster of Indianola, be ...
, is bombed by the Ku Klux Klan, killing Kramer's five-year-old twin boys and leading to the amputation of Kramer's legs and his later suicide. Klansman Sam Cayhall (Hackman) is tried for murder in the bombing, and is eventually convicted and capital punishment in the United States, sentenced to die in the gas chamber at the Mississippi State Penitentiary. Twenty-nine years later, in 1996, Adam Hall (O’Donnell), a young attorney at the Chicago law firm of Kravitz and Bane, seeks assignment to the firm's pro bono representation of Cayhall in the last weeks before his scheduled execution. Adam is Sam Cayhall's grandson, his family having since moved away from Southern United States, the South and changed their name, haunted and shamed by Cayhall's crime. Adam is motivated to take the case in a search for some understanding of the dark secrets of his family, which prompted the suicide of Adam's father the year Sam was sentenced to death (and whose body Adam found as a child). Adam is sent by the firm to Jackson, Mississippi to take over the case and there reconnects with his aunt Lee Bowen (Dunaway), an alcoholism, alcoholic socialite who has managed to avoid public association with her infamous father, and who warns Adam about the dangers of dredging up the past. On death row, Sam remains a brusque, bitter, unrepentant racist who brags about his participation in the Klan bombing campaign of which the Kramer bombing was a part, though he denies that any of the bombings were intended to kill. He taunts Adam for his youth, legal inexperience, anti-racism, and the suicide of his father, but he agrees to allow Adam to represent him, though he forbids Adam from seeking pardon, clemency from Mississippi Governor McAllister, who had prosecuted Sam in his last retrial and had campaigned on that prosecution in his election to Governor. Nevertheless, as he begins to argue the case, Adam is approached by the Governor through an aide, Nora Stark (Rochon), who suggests that the Governor might consider clemency if Sam provides information about unidentified co-conspirators to the bombing. As Adam investigates, inconsistencies in the facts of the original case come to light, casting doubt on Sam's intent to kill and suggesting that he lacked the ability to make the bomb himself, and both Stark and the original Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI agent who investigated the case indicate that the bombing may have been the result of a broader conspiracy involving the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission and Citizens' Councils, White Citizens' Councils, which were active at the time of the bombing in opposition to civil rights. Sam refuses to authorize Adam to seek access to the Sovereignty Commission's files, sealed by order of the Mississippi Legislature, state legislature, fearing it would expose Sam's former associates in the Klan, as well allowing the Governor to obtain useful information on political enemies, which he indicates is the Governor's real reason for seeking Sam's cooperation in unsealing the files. Adam continues to work through the courts, filing and arguing motions for a stay of execution, including on the grounds that Sam was insanity defense, legally insane and unable to tell right from wrong, due to his indoctrination into the Ku Klux Klan. At the same time, Lee, faced with the unearthed ghosts of the family history and having lapsed back into full-blown alcoholism, reveals to Adam that in the early 1950s, as children, she and Adam's father had witnessed their father murder the family's African-American neighbor, Joe Lincoln, during a fight that had started because Adam's father, Eddie, had wrongly accused Lincoln's son of stealing a toy soldier. Eddie had blamed himself for the murder, as well as Lee, for failing to stop Sam, the guilt of which was a factor in Eddie's later suicide and Lee's alcoholism. Lee also reveals how their father had been indoctrinated into the Klan as a child, showing Adam a historic photograph of Sam as a young boy attending a Klan Lynching in the United States, lynching (which Adam uses in his arguments before the courts). Adam and Nora secretly gain access to the Sovereignty Commission's sealed files, which prove a wider conspiracy to the bombing, and also indicate the participation of an accomplice. The former FBI agent resurfaces, and reveals to Adam that the FBI had identified the accomplice, Rollie Wedge, whom the FBI had never been able to prove responsible, but who has reunited with other Klan members to commemorate the bombing on the eve of the pending execution. Adam goes to the Klan reunion and is beaten by several Klan members, and threatened at gunpoint by Wedge. Adam's persistence, the revelation of how much Sam's hatred had destroyed his family, and his impending execution begin to affect Sam, and he softens, reconciling with Lee and expressing remorse for his actions and the effect they have had on his family. Sam forcefully rejects the Klan when Wedge visits him in prison to encourage him to remain silent, and it is revealed that Wedge was the one who had built the bomb and set it deliberately to kill. Ultimately, Adam's motions for a stay are denied by the courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States, United States Supreme Court. Despite Sam's finally authorizing the release of relevant Sovereignty Commission files, the Governor refuses to grant clemency, betraying him and Adam, while nonetheless using the files as political leverage (as Sam had predicted). Wedge, identified in the files, is finally arrested. Ultimately, Sam is executed in the gas chamber, though Adam remains a confidant and advocate for his grandfather up until his execution, and he and Lee embrace at the end, in the hope that maybe the ghosts of the past are gone.


Cast

*
Chris O'Donnell Christopher Eugene O'Donnell (born June 26, 1970) is an American actor and former model. He played Charlie Sims in '' Scent of a Woman'', Chris Reece in ''School Ties ''School Ties'' is a 1992 American sports film, sports-Drama (film and tele ...
as Adam Hall *
Gene Hackman Eugene Allen Hackman (born January 30, 1930) is an American retired actor, novelist, and United States Marine. In a career that has spanned more than six decades, Hackman has won two Academy Awards The Academy Awards, popularly known as th ...
as Sam Cayhall * Faye Dunaway as Lee Cayhall Bowen * Robert Prosky as E. Garner Goodman * Raymond J. Barry as Rollie Wedge / "Donnie Cayhall" * Bo Jackson as Sergeant Clyde Packer * Lela Rochon as Nora Stark * David Marshall Grant as Governor David McAllister * Nicholas Pryor as Judge Flynn F. Slattery * Harve Presnell as Attorney General Roxburgh * Millie Perkins as Ruth Kramer


Production history

Universal bought the film rights for $4 million. Ron Howard was originally set to direct the film for Universal. In May 1994 it was reported William Goldman was paid $1 million to write the script. Howard left the project in May 1995 because of what he described as "a hunch". He stayed on as a producer though. "It's a strong story, and William Goldman is doing great work on the screenplay." Brad Pitt was committed to playing Adam Hall, but left the project when Howard left to direct ''Ransom''. William Goldman described the project as a "total wipeout disaster... a terrible experience" and never saw the finished movie.


Filming locations

Scenes were filmed in a photo realistic recreation of the gas chamber on studio sets in Los Angeles. Other locations were filmed in Chicago, Jackson, Mississippi,
Indianola, Mississippi Indianola is a U.S. city in Sunflower County, Mississippi, in the Mississippi Delta. The population was 10,683 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Sunflower County. History In 1891, Minnie M. Cox was appointed postmaster of Indianola, be ...
, Greenwood, Mississippi, Parchman, Mississippi, and Cleveland, Mississippi.


Reception

Critical reaction to ''The Chamber'' has been negative. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 12% based on reviews from 25 critics. On Metacritic the film has a score of 45 out of 100 based on reviews from 18 critics. Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "B+" on scale of A to F. Roger Ebert gave the film two stars out of four, remarking: "In the early days of X-rated movies, they were always careful to include something of 'redeeming social significance' to justify their erotic content. Watching ''The Chamber'', I was reminded of that time. The attitudes about African Americans and Jews here represent the pornography of hate, and although the movie ends by punishing evil, I got the sinking feeling that, just as with the old sex films, by the time the ending came around, some members of the audience had already gotten what they bought their tickets for." James Berardinelli also gave the film two stars out of four, saying: "Plot-wise, ''The Chamber'' is full of seeming irrelevancies. The movie should have been streamlined better; there's no need to try to include virtually every character from the book. [...] ''The Chamber'' [...] is mechanical and artificial, and tells you what to think." Grisham called the film a "disaster" and a "train wreck from the beginning". He added, "It could not have been handled worse by those involved, including me. I made a fundamental error when I sold the film rights before I finished writing the book. It was a dreadful movie. Gene Hackman was the only good thing in it." Faye Dunaway's performance in the movie earned her a Golden Raspberry Award, Razzie Award nomination for Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress, Worst Supporting Actress, but she did not win the award.


See also

* Civil rights movement in popular culture * Civil Rights Movement


References


External links

* * * * {{DEFAULTSORT:Chamber, The 1996 films Films about capital punishment Films produced by Brian Grazer Films directed by James Foley Films based on works by John Grisham Films with screenplays by William Goldman 1990s thriller films American crime thriller films American films Films about the Ku Klux Klan Films shot in Mississippi Universal Pictures films Imagine Entertainment films Davis Entertainment films Films based on American novels Films produced by John Davis Films scored by Carter Burwell American legal drama films 1990s legal films Films set in Mississippi