I also didn't know it was a period piece until I started watching.
I won't get into the things they do to him, but when he finally does get out, his first act after spending over 1000 days in darkness, beaten, starved, cut, etc, is to kill the person who came out okay after their escape (jabs him in the neck with a spoon to give some perspective).
And because stuff has to suck, they decide to try him for murder in the first degree with a sentence of death.
Christian Slater plays his lawyer, a public defender who came out of Harvard Law. Kevin Bacon is the prisoner and is unrecognizable the way he plays the character. It was chilling and well done. Actually, everyone in the movie did a great job (Gary Oldman is the psychotic warden who tortured this poor bastard).
There are some problems. It takes huge liberties with history. Outside of Kevin Bacon's character, most of the other players are one dimensional. The actors do what they can, but this is a protest movie that's way out of date. Alcatraz closed in 1963 so talking about how inhumane it was doesn't make a lot of sense in 1995.
At 122 minutes, I felt it was too short. They wrap things up neatly and swiftly, like the rushed final act of a video game that ran out of budget. I would've liked more background on the characters, more interaction between people, more 'show' rather than 'tell' (there's a narration throughout).
Nevertheless, I'm glad I watched it and it's worth a look if you like the actors, the time period or courtroom dramas.
Rating: 3.75 out of 5