“Trial by fire,” or when the Texas penal system is put under the microscope for negligence

“Trial by Fire” is the true story of the unlikely bond that developped between a death row inmate (Jack O’Connell) and a mother of two from Houston (Laura Dern) who, although she faced great odds, fought hard for his freedom. Cameron Todd Willingham, a poor, uneducated heavy metal devotee with a violent streak and a criminal record, was convicted of arson-related triple homicide in 1992. During his twelve years on death row, Elizabeth Gilbert, an improbable ally, uncovers questionable methods by the police and illogical, hasty conclusions made during the inquiry. She fights with the state to expose evidence that had been suppressed and which just might exculpate him. Her efforts will ultimately fail and, ever since Willingham’s execution, a question has remained unanswered: Did the State of Texas execute an innocent man?

Yes, if the name David Zwick looks familiar, that’s because the director won several academy awards (“Glory,” “Legends of the Fall,” “Traffic”). The film was adapted by Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious) from an article by David Grann originally published in The New Yorker. “Trial by Fire” had its world premiere at the 2018 Telluride Film Festival, and is produced by Edward Zwick, Allyn Stewart (“Sully,” “Madeline,” “I Dreamed of Africa”), Kipp Nelson (“Sully,” “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”) and Alex Soros. Executive Producers are Kathryn Dean and Marshall Herskovitz.

In theaters May 14th.