The Chamber (1996)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

This drama centers on the relationship between racist killer Sam Cayhall, who is awaiting execution in a Mississippi prison, and northern lawyer Adam Hall, who tries to convince the courts to grant the inmate clemency. Adam is actually Sam's grandson and wants to understand the roots of his family's racism.

Rating: R (adult situations/language, violence)
Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Drama
Directed By:
Written By: William Goldman, Chris Reese
In Theaters:
On DVD: May 26, 1998
MCA Universal Home Video


as Sam Cayhall

as Adam Hall

as Lee Bowen

as Nora Stark

as Ruth Kramer

as E. Garner Goodman

as Rollie Wedge

as Sergeant Packer

as Governor McAllister

as Judge Slattery

as Attorney General Rox...

as Wyn Lettner

as J.B. Gullitt

as Marvin Kramer

as Josh Kramer

as John Kramer

as Phelps Bowen

as Lucas Mann

as Ms. Cooley

as George Nugent

as Joe Lincoln

as Quince Lincoln

as Dr. Anne Biddows

as Gate Attendant

as Rally Skinhead

as Rally Skinhead

as Rally Skinhead

as Lead Sheriff

as Newscaster

as Professor Burns

as White Guard

as Newcaster on Air

as Senate Aide

as Vistor's Room Guard

as Vistor's Room Guard

as Visitor's Room Guard

as Inmate

as Deputy Executioner

as Deputy Executioner

as Observation Cell Gua...

as Governor's Aide
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for The Chamber

All Critics (42) | Top Critics (13)

Lacking the surface glitz, attention-grabbing plot and star power of John Grisham's previous adaptations, Folley's film will also suffer due to comparisons with the similarly-themed and better Tim Robbins' Dead Man Walking, released last year.

Full Review… | March 8, 2006
Top Critic

There isn't a whole lot to the movie.

January 1, 2000
USA Today
Top Critic

Full Review… | September 7, 2011
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Full Review… | June 18, 2002
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Chamber


Nothing annoys me more than sitting through a film I consider to be very good, or perhaps even excellent, and then reading reviews about it afterwards that are wholly negative and often very untrue in their descriptions. "The Chamber," released in 1996, and based on John Grisham's novel from two years earlier, is one such movie. Having read both the book and having seen the film, I draw two conclusions. The first is that I believe the movie to be as good (Perhaps even better) than Grisham's novel. The second is that the movie is a great piece of film-making; one of the most mature, thoughtful and intelligent to have come out of Hollywood in the past few years, especially when one takes into account that it's dealing with some very complex themes and issues. Gene Hackman plays Sam Cayhall, the racist bigot from America's ole' South, whose been on death row for several decades, following his involvement in the unintentional murder of a Jewish family. Cayhall has a month to live, and, just as even he has given up on any hope of a successful appeal, the old man gets a visit from his grandson lawyer, Adam Hall (Competently played by Chris O'Donnell). Adam is determined to get his grandfather off the row (Much to Sam's annoyance), and sets about digging up his family's past in the hope of discovering the truth surrounding the crime that Sam committed. The truly great thing about "The Chamber" (And perhaps something which John Grisham, its author, deserves the credit for) is that right from the opening scenes, we are never unsure about Sam's guilt. He's as guilty as sin. This is unlike Tim Robbin's "Dead Man Walking," (A film which many critics claim is superior and are forever comparing "The Chamber" to), where the audience is almost wrongfully 'Conned' into believing its protagonist's innocence, presumably in the hope of us sympthasing with him all the more. But, with "The Chamber," although Sam Cayhall is a spiteful, hateful and guilty sinner, we sympathise with him because we sympathise with O'Donnells all-too-true belief that he still doesn't deserve to die. After all, how can someone whose been brought up and raised in such a dreadfully racist and hateful environment turn out to be any better than Sam? The film is an important character study, as much as what it is a study of such afore-mentioned important themes(s). It never shies away from dealing with issues such as racism, making the 'Showdown' scene towards the end between Cayhall and one of his sickening 'Admirers' to be all the more brilliant. The film has faults, sure. For instance, Faye Dunaway as Adam's alcoholic Aunt struggles manically, and gives a much too dramatic and theatrical performance for this film. Gene Hackman also has some trouble in a very difficult role, although he's much more effective in the later scenes, where he begins to realise his mistakes. Perhaps the film's biggest mistake is in its failure to develop a proper character out of 'Rollie Wedge' (Robert Prosky), the man who may or may not have been involved in the terrible murder that Sam is now on death row for. I rarely cry in movie, but I cry every time I watch "The Chamber;" not just during the suitably hard-to-watch and claustrophobic closing scenes, but also during the final sequences between Sam and his grandaughter. It's a truly touching piece of film-making, and a very thought provoking and intelligent one. If only a better director had been at the helm, and the odd performance had been touched up a bit, this picture would have been an instant classic.

Cassandra Maples

Super Reviewer


A hard-hitting and heart-racing edge of your seat thriller. Pulse-pounding and gut-wrenching. Gene Hackman gives one of his greatest performances ever

Al S

Super Reviewer


A great part played by Gene Hackman, with a good stoy, some boring parts, but worth a watch

Lady D'arbanville

Super Reviewer

The Chamber Quotes

– Submitted by Alyssa B (13 months ago)
– Submitted by Alyssa B (13 months ago)
– Submitted by Alyssa B (13 months ago)
– Submitted by Alyssa B (14 months ago)

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