U.S. | Execution by nitrogen hypoxia doesn’t seem headed for widespread adoption as bills fall short and nitrogen producers object

The day after Alabama carried out the first-known US execution using nitrogen gas, its attorney general sent a clear message to death penalty states that might want to follow suit: “Alabama has done it, and now so can you.” Indeed, in the weeks immediately following the January execution of Kenneth Smith, it appeared a handful of states were listening, introducing bills that would adopt the method known as nitrogen hypoxia or a similar one. Officials behind each framed the legislation as an alternative method that could help resume executions where they had long been stalled.

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➤ Clemency

2019. USA. Director:  Chinonye Chukwu. Writer:  Chinonye Chukwu. Cast:  Alfre Woodard, Richard Schiff, Aldis Hodge.  Running time: 1h52


The movie revolves around the life of Bernadine Williams (played by Alfre Woodard), a prison warden who oversees death row at a maximum-security penitentiary. 

As she prepares for another execution, the emotional toll of her job begins to take a heavy toll on her. She grapples with the moral and psychological challenges of her role, while trying to maintain a sense of professionalism. However, her growing internal turmoil and the impending execution of a death row inmate, Anthony Woods (played by Aldis Hodge), forces her to confront her own humanity and the devastating impact of the criminal justice system.


"Clemency" received critical acclaim for its powerful performances, especially Alfre Woodard's portrayal of the conflicted prison warden. 

The film has been praised for its thought-provoking exploration of the death penalty, its impact on individuals involved in the process, and the overall criminal justice system. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, highlighting its compelling storytelling and poignant social commentary. 

The film's reception underscores its significance in addressing complex moral and emotional issues within the context of the American justice system.

➤ The Current War

2017. USA. Director:  Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. Writer:  Michael Mitnick. Cast:  Benedict Cumberbatch, Oliver Powell, Katherine Waterston.  Running time: 1h42


"The Current War" is a historical drama that primarily focuses on the rivalry between Thomas Edison (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (played by Michael Shannon) during the late 19th century. 

The film explores their fierce competition in the "War of Currents" as they vied to establish their electrical systems as the dominant one for lighting up America. 

Edison advocated for direct current (DC), while Westinghouse promoted alternating current (AC).

The invention of the electric chair plays a significant role in the film's plot. 

In an effort to discredit Westinghouse and the dangers of alternating current, Edison becomes involved in the development of the electric chair as a means of execution. He collaborates with Harold P. Brown (played by Tom Holland) to design the first electric chair and demonstrate the perceived risks of AC power by using it for capital punishment.

This historical backdrop and the development of the electric chair become central to the film's narrative, shedding light on the ethical and moral dilemmas associated with the use of electricity for execution.


"The Current War" received mixed reviews from critics upon its initial release, with some praising the performances of the cast, particularly Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon. The film's portrayal of the technological and personal conflicts between Edison and Westinghouse was appreciated for its historical significance.

However, the film's reception was somewhat subdued due to its pacing and storytelling choices. It underwent some re-editing after its initial festival screening, and the version released to theaters received a more positive reception. 

While it may not have been a critical darling, "The Current War" remains an intriguing exploration of a pivotal period in electrical history, including the controversial introduction of the electric chair as a method of execution.

➤ Just Mercy

2019. USA. Director: Destin Daniel Cretton. Writer: Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham. Cast: Jamie Foxx, Charlie Pye Jr., Michael Harding. Running time: 2h17


"Just Mercy" is a powerful and moving drama based on the real-life story of Bryan Stevenson (played by Michael B. Jordan), a young and idealistic lawyer who founded the Equal Justice Initiative. The film centers around Stevenson's early career and his mission to provide legal representation to death row inmates, particularly those who were wrongly convicted.

One of his most high-profile cases is that of Walter McMillian (played by Jamie Foxx), an African American man wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to death in Alabama. 

Stevenson and his dedicated team, including Eva Ansley (played by Brie Larson), work tirelessly to uncover evidence of McMillian's innocence and to challenge the deeply ingrained racial bias and systemic injustice in the criminal justice system.

The film explores themes of racial discrimination, inequality, and the struggle for justice, shedding light on the challenges faced by Stevenson and his clients as they fight for truth and the right to a fair trial.


"Just Mercy" received critical acclaim for its powerful storytelling and performances. Michael B. Jordan's portrayal of Bryan Stevenson was highly praised for its emotional depth and authenticity. Jamie Foxx's performance as Walter McMillian also garnered recognition for its compelling portrayal of a wrongfully convicted man.

The film's examination of systemic racism and the flaws in the criminal justice system struck a chord with audiences and critics alike. "Just Mercy" was praised for its emotional impact and its role in raising awareness about issues related to race, inequality, and the death penalty. It was considered an important and timely film that prompted discussions about the need for criminal justice reform.

Overall, "Just Mercy" was lauded for its social relevance and its commitment to telling a story that highlights the injustices faced by many marginalized individuals within the American legal system.

➤ Monster's Ball

. USA.  Directed by Marc Forster. Cast: 
Billy Bob Thornton as Hank Grotowski, Halle Berry as Leticia Musgrove, Heath Ledger as Sonny Grotowski, Peter Boyle as Buck Grotowski. Running time: 112 minutes.


"Monster's Ball" is a drama film directed by Marc Forster. The story revolves around Hank Grotowski, a prison guard at a death row facility, and Leticia Musgrove, a widow who struggles to make ends meet for her son. Hank's son, Sonny, is involved in a tragic accident, and both Hank and Leticia find themselves at a crossroads in their lives. The film explores themes of grief, racism, and redemption as their paths intersect, leading to a complex and unconventional relationship.

The death penalty serves as a backdrop and a thematic element that highlights the dark and complex aspects of the characters' lives. The film is set in a Southern U.S. state, where the death penalty is still in practice.

The main character's job is to oversee executions, which puts him in close proximity to the grim reality of the death penalty, and a large segment of the film deals with the emotional toll that the death penalty takes on those involved in its execution. Hank struggles with guilt and a sense of moral conflict as he becomes disillusioned with his role in the execution process.

In "Monster's Ball," the relationship between Hank Grotowski, played by Billy Bob Thornton, and his son Sonny, portrayed by Heath Ledger, is characterized by violence, tension, and a sense of familial dysfunction. Hank, as a prison guard, represents the stern, authoritarian figure in their household, while Sonny is impulsive and struggles to live up to his father's expectations.

The violent nature of their relationship is epitomized in a pivotal scene where a tragic accident occurs, leading to a turning point in the story. This incident not only deepens the emotional chasm between father and son but also sets the stage for profound changes in their lives. The tension and conflict within this father-son dynamic serve as a significant element in the film, contributing to the complex web of emotions and experiences explored throughout the narrative.


"Monster's Ball" received critical acclaim upon its release. Halle Berry won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the film, making her the first African-American woman to win the Oscar in that category. 

The movie was praised for its powerful performances and its exploration of challenging themes. It was also well-received by audiences and remains a significant work in American cinema.

➤ The Chamber

1996. USA. Directed by James Foley. Based on John Grisham's 1994 eponymous novel. Cast:  Chris O'Donnell, Gene Hackman, Faye Dunaway. Running time: 112 minutes


"The Chamber" is a legal thriller directed by James Foley and based on the novel of the same name by John Grisham. "The Chamber," both the book and the film, draws inspiration from real historical events and cases, although it is a work of fiction.

The story follows the life of Adam Hall (played by Chris O'Donnell), a young attorney who is determined to save his racist and convicted grandfather, Sam Cayhall (played by Gene Hackman), from the gas chamber. 

Cayhall, a member of the Ku Klux Klan, is on death row for his involvement in a 1967 bombing that resulted in the deaths of two young children. As Adam delves into his family's dark past and attempts to delay the execution, he faces challenges from both his own family and the legal system. The film explores themes of racism, forgiveness, and the complexities of the death penalty.

While the characters and specific details in "The Chamber" are fictional, they are rooted in the broader historical context of racial tensions and crimes in the American South.

The use of such a backdrop allows the story to explore themes of racism and family legacy within the context of a legal thriller.


"The Chamber" received mixed to negative reviews from critics. 

While Gene Hackman's performance was generally praised, the film as a whole was criticized for its handling of the sensitive racial themes and the adaptation of Grisham's novel. Some felt that it didn't capture the novel's depth and intensity. 

As a result, the film didn't achieve the same level of critical acclaim as other adaptations of Grisham's work. 

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