Laura Dern Seeks Justice for a Stranger in 'Trial by Fire' Trailer

Trial By Fire Still 1 - Telluride Film Festival Publicity-H 2018
Courtesy of Telluride Film Festival

Jack O'Connell and Emily Meade also star in the true-crime drama, which was adapted from a 2009 New Yorker article.

The first trailer for Roadside Attractions' Trial by Fire shows Laura Dern fighting to clear a death row inmate. 

The Edward Zwick-directed true-crime drama is adapted from a New Yorker article by David Grann. The film stars Dern (Big Little LiesStar Wars: The Last Jedi) and Jack O'Connell (GodlessSkins) in the roles of a mother of two and inmate, respectively, who form an unlikely bond.

The trailer begins in a courtroom as O’Connell’s Cameron Todd Willingham is found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to death. Enter Elizabeth Gilbert (Dern), the Texas prisoner’s “first visitor in a long time,” he tells her through a phone receiver and pane of glass.

“Prisoners talk about doing time,” Willingham says as images of life inside the Texas jail flash. “But on the row, there is no time.”

The trailer reveals the fateful day that Willingham’s house caught on fire. Impeded by the smoke and heat, the father of two stumbles around his home, engulfed in flames, as he attempts and fails to save his children.

Upon hearing his story, Gilbert takes to the airwaves to speak on behalf of Willingham, a “vulnerable, sensitive” man whom she’s come to know and now believes should not be on death row. She then takes to the case, combing through files and coming face-to-face with the men who helped put Willingham behind bars.

The more she uncovers about the depth of the investigation's corruption — from unreliable witnesses to undependable lawyers — the more she finds herself clashing, dangerously, with law enforcement and the people determined to keep quiet about their role in Willingham’s fate.

As she grapples with his resignation and her desperation for justice, the trailer shows Gilbert unrelenting in her fight to uncover the truth about what happened the day of the fire, and determined to change a broken system for a man whose time is running out.

“These are my last days, Liz,” Willingham says. “It’s gonna go by just like that.”

“I understand,” Gilbert responds. “But I’m hoping.”

Adapted for the screen by Geoffrey Fletcher, Trial by Fire is set to hit theaters May 17.