Still, Dead Man Walking never edges into the pro-capital punishment camp. Robbins and Penn team up to portray Poncelet as a selfish, callous man who is almost -- almost -- beyond redemption. But as the powers that be deny Poncelet's last-ditch appeals for a stay of execution and the moment of truth approaches, the mask of bravado falls, and a scared young man who just wants to salvage a little dignity emerges. You see the machinery of death up close. You meet the guy whose job it is to strap down one of the prisoner's legs (there's an official four-person strap-down team, with each member responsible for one specific limb). You hear a vivid description of the execution process and a graphic explanation of the damage lethal injections do to a dying man's internal organs. You take that long walk through the death house as the iron gates clang shut behind you with the finality of death itself. And you realize that Dead Man Walking opposes all killing, whether by drug-addled murderers or state-sponsored executioners. Sister Helen eventually finds the terrified human beneath Matthew Poncelet's insolent exterior. At that point she struggles to reconcile that reality with the inhuman savagery of his crime, while simultaneously groping for a way to comfort the victims' families, who seek retribution for their unbearable grief. It's a tough balancing act. You've got to hand it to both Sister Helen and Tim Robbins for pulling it off.