O'Donnell the Chamber Crusader
Adapted from a John Grisham novel, "The Chamber" is another entertaining movie which like other adaptations of John Grisham's novels such as "A Time to Kill" and "The Client" takes us to the deep south and another semi court room based drama. What is surprising is that with a storyline which strongly focuses on the Klu Klux Klan, you would expect "The Chamber" to focus on racial prejudices where in fact it's more interested in a cover up which leads to Sam Cayhall being on death row, as well as embracing the relationship dynamics between grandfather and grandson.
Adam Hall (Chris O'Donnell - Batman Forever) is a newly qualified attorney, with an idealistic view of the law. He takes on the case of his Klansman grandfather Sam Cayhall (Gene Hackman - Extreme Measures), who he has never met, and who is on death row with just 4 weeks left before he is due to face execution. Adam believes that there is a chance of saving his grandfather and sets about re-examining all the events which led up to the crime that he is accused of committing. As he investigates everything, he discovers his family history, which had been hidden from him by his father as he was ashamed of it. With the execution getting closer, Adam discovers a web of deception and sinister secrets which finally leads him to the truth, but is it enough.
You could say that "The Chamber" runs to a pretty predictable formula; there are revelations, moments of drama as well as danger. But whilst predictable the formula actually works making it relatively gripping as we become attached to Adam and his search for the truth. But whilst predictable there is an almost shocking side to "The Chamber" with its intense visuals when showing execution scenes, its hard hitting maybe a little too hard hitting in the context of the rest of the movie.
As for the actual acting well Chris O'Donnell does a reasonable job as Adam the young idealistic attorney delivering that almost naivety when it comes to Deep South law. Sadly in the scenes O'Donnell shares with Gene Hackman he is seriously over shadowed by a powerful actor. As such Hackman's portrayal of Sam Cayhall is one of the high lights of the movie with a true intensity to it which slowly softens as the movie progresses. And adding to the power is Faye Dunaway as Adam's aunt Lee Cayhall Bowen a wonderfully acted but underused character.
As you would expect for a movie set in the Deep South director James Foley spends sometime capturing the atmosphere of the setting with some wonderful scenic shots of the unspoilt area. It's wonderfully done because it never becomes too artsy yet achieves the aim of setting the location perfectly as does the soundtrack with a distinct bluesy feel to it.
What this all boils down is that "The Chamber" is a good movie but not as good as either "The Client" or "A Time to Kill". What keeps it interesting is the balance between Adam's search for the truth and the family dynamics between two vastly different relations.
Tags: John Grisham