Death, sex and race dominate Marc Forster's sombre Southern drama, which casts Billy Bob Thornton as a racist Death Row warden drawn to Halle Berry, the wife of the last prisoner he executed. The leads' lives have a symmetry that risks triteness, but there's no knocking Forster's handling of tone and actors. Thornton makes a potentially thin character full-blooded, while Heath Ledger quietly impresses as his anguished son. And Berry? Well, let's just say that Oscar was no tokenism.
This is a performance of force, pathos and tenderness.