“Clemency” (***). The debate over the death penalty gets a new spark with this very personal look at a humanistic warden (Alfre Woodard) who makes end-of-life experiences as compassionate as possible for those on death row. It’s as if Warden Bernadine Williams goes on cruise-control as she and her staff strap in inmates for that lethal injection. She thinks she’s fully prepared for everything. Then there’s an inevitable catastrophe that magnifies the toll her job takes on her psyche and husband (Wendell Pierce) and sobriety. Writer/director Chinonye Chukwu’s message is that executing criminals is inhumane. Slow steady drama builds and builds. Woodard creates a protagonist who is equally likable and unapproachable. Her steely performance is complemented by supporting cast members: Aldis Hodge as the cop-killer next in line for death; Richard Schiff as the convict’s hopeful lawyer; Danielle Brooks as a person from the prisoner’s past.
In theaters Dec. 27, 2019. Info: clemencythefilm.com