Murder In The First is a 1995 thriller directed by the late Marc Rosso (Where The Day Takes You, Dream A Little Dream) and starring Christian Slater, Kevin Bacon, and Gary Oldman. The film is about an eager and idealistic young attorney (Slater) defending an Alcatraz prisoner (Bacon) accused of murdering a fellow inmate. The extenuating circumstances: his client had just spent over three years in solitary confinement.
*Warning Spoilers Ahead!*
The Truth Behind The Film
This thriller/drama is based on the case of Alcatraz prisoner Henri Young, and the injustices that he faced while being held there. Some of the story in Murder in the First is dramatized as it is a movie, but nonetheless, what Young suffered is truly the definition of horror.
Murder in the First has two of my all time favorite actors – the amazing Christian Slater and the talented Kevin Bacon – who are both superb in this film. Let’s start off by talking about Kevin Bacon’s portrayal of Henri Young. Not only did he lose 20 pounds for the role, but his acting was phenomenal. He truly makes you feel sorry for this prisoner seem weak and valuable. At one point in the film where Slater’s character, James Stamphill, and his client are in Young’s cell. When Young says all he wants is to be friends with James, it truly is heartbreaking.
Christian Slater is also brilliant in this film. He gives James Stamphill a strong will to help this man that he knows was wronged. He is also great at showing how Stamphill will not give up, even as a young attorney. His boss gives him a case that he shouldn’t be able to win, but he defies them and goes with his own instinct.
The supporting cast is also great. Gary Oldman, who plays warden Milton Glenn, really makes you despise his character. For example, there’s a scene in the beginning where he’s talking to Young, saying he can’t try to escape again. Young, being weak and scared, keeps saying, “I won’t do it again.” Glenn responds, saying, “No, you won’t,” and slashes the back of Young’s heel, leaving him incapable of walking, never mind running.
The cinematography is beautiful in Murder In The First. For example, a lot of the shots of Henri Young are shot through the prison cell bars, giving the feeling that he is always trapped. In contrast to this. one of my favorite shots in the film is when James Stamphill is sitting in his office at the law firm, trying to find out more about Alcatraz. By this point, he’s being told that he could lose his job if he doesn’t lose the case. We see him through his books, giving us the sensation that he, too, is trapped, but in a different scenario.
All in all, Murder In The First is amazing. I’ll be completely honest, I knew nothing about this film before I watched it. But man, am I happy I did, because it did not disappoint. So if you haven’t seen this 1995 thriller, you should check it out. You won’t be sorry.