Well, you know what they say: Everything's bigger in Texas, including the irrational hostility toward science, toward learning, toward temperance, as Mims and Bailey's well-made, deeply disheartening film demonstrates.

-Kimberly Jones

The Austin Chronicle

(Critic’s Pick)

   An audience favorite at this year's Silverdocs documentary festival, "Incendiary: The Willingham Case" provides a gripping, appalling and finally galling tick-tock of justice denied in modern-day Texas.

    One of the most timely movies of the year...

    Expertly crafted by filmmakers Steve Mims and Joe Bailey Jr., "Incendiary" possesses the hallmarks of true-crime nonfiction filmmaking at its most classic.

    Crime, punishment, morality and hardball politics make for an explosive narrative mix all their own.

-Ann Hornaday

The Washington Post

(Critic’s Pick)

...a powerhouse piece of filmmaking.

Gripping, endlessly infuriating, and directed with great finesse by Steve Mims and Joe Bailey, Jr., INCENDIARY is documentary storytelling at its best. From its striking visuals to its thorough investigation of Willingham's story, the film is in many ways reminiscent of another stellar Texas crime documentary, Errol Morris's THE THIN BLUE LINE.

    Riveting, flawlessly executed and painfully relevant, INCENDIARY is the sort of provocative documentary the Powers That Be don't want you to see. Which is all the more reason to see it.

-Don Clinchy


alarming viewing

for anyone who cares about the American justice system.

-Sheri Linden

The Los Angeles Times

...a frequently unsettling account of how dubious ‘science’ possibly led to

an irreversible miscarriage of justice...

    ‘INCENDIARY’ leaves it up to viewers to decide whether justice was served.

-Joe Leydon


...of the print stories and television features on Willingham...too often, the most important part of the story—the science—has gotten lost.

That’s why filmmakers Steve Mims and Joe Bailey Jr. are to be commended. 

I found it riveting....stunning.

    The film has a blockbuster ending.

-Dave Mann

The Texas Observer

...a visually beautiful, enigmatic film that fully immerses its audience in a world where fire dynamics meet human dynamics and mystery thrives.

-Nick Barbieri

The Austinist

(critics’ reviews)

    Exhaustive...a thorough primer on fire...Unlike some Willingham defenders, Incendiary cogently separates the anti-death penalty cause from the fact that this case is, fundamentally, one about scientific methods...

a doc that successfully inflames one’s righteous indignation at government-sanctioned anti-intellectualism,

even as it leaves slightly open the question of its deceased subject’s actual guilt.

-Nick Schager

The Village Voice

(Critic’s Pick)

(click here for additional reviews and press)

INCENDIARY achieves greatness as a deeper divide in the perspective of its characters is revealed. 

The directors tell the story of an arson investigation gone horribly wrong, but they tell it from the dispassionate perspective of the scientific method.  And through this lens, anti-death penalty protesters, politicians, attorneys and even family members of deceased children—basically anyone who is likely to lack objectivity concerning the case—are viewed suspiciously.

-Shannon M. Houston


Highly engaging...

Convincing, meticulous...nimbly cut...It’s one thing to have a provocative idea, and quite another to turn that idea into a compelling filmMims and Bailey succeed on both counts.

-Chris Vognar

The Dallas Morning News

(Critic’s Pick)

Mr. Martin is confident in his convictions. The filmmakers are confident about their science.  
Justice, this strong documentary asserts, is at risk in the division.
-David DeWitt
The New York Times

It might not be possible for a movie to change the world, but INCENDIARY will probably accomplish the next best thing

and make you re-think about the issue at stake-not just the death penalty and wrongful conviction, but arson investigation and politics taking precedence over justice.

-Joseph Gibson


    The story of the innocent man wrongfully accused is the interesting one, cinematically; in not only its narrative but its stylish execution, Incendiary is something like a Thin Blue Line, but with a less happy ending...
    ...the picture is crisply and confidently assembled, Steve Mims's cutting is sharp, Graham Reynolds's music is tense and effective.
    It respects the patience and intelligence of its viewers, particularly in its willingness to get down into the muck of the various meetings, complaints, and hearings.  And it presents its final, infuriating bits of information without comment, because no comment is necessary.
-Jason Bailey
Fourth Row Center 
& DVDTalk

As a documentary, “Incendiary” is decidedly even-handed, even as it raises the temperature of those watching.

   This isn’t a film about the rightness and wrongness of the death penalty. It is about human unwillingness to admit a mistake, even at the cost of an innocent human life.  Tragedy compounds tragedy in “Incendiary: The Willingham Case,” showing that, in Texas, the main interest of those who govern is self-interest.

-Marshall Fine

Hollywood & Fine

and The Huffington Post

A compelling justice-denied doc with implications reaching far beyond the specifics of one event...solidly engaging throughout...

-John DeFore

The Hollywood Reporter

What the filmmakers let us understand about the whole affair—which, by the way,

cracklingly combines politics, forensic investigation, justice, the death penalty and the rights of a defendant—raises a bunch of questions, whose answers raise even more...

one of the best and most important documentaries so far this year.

-James van Maanen




(4/4 stars)

-Cary Darling

The Miami Herald (wire)

Fort Worth Star Telegram

...elegant, insistent...

    The men backed by books tend to sound informed; the politicians and appointees, spinning language...

...The film undermines the defense that such illogic is a function of ignorance, and instead suggests it’s a matter of deliberate political maneuvering.

-Cynthia Fuchs


    In the end, INCENDIARY leaves you on a note best described as unnerved and uncomfortable.  No matter where the battle ends up or who uses Willingham’s case as their poster case, there are two very simple, disturbing questions that need to be answered:  Was an innocent person murdered, and is corruption in our government that bad?  Mims and Bailey ultimately want you to decide that for yourself, but they give a hell of a persuasive start.              
-Mike Finkelstein    
Pop Goes the Week

‘Incendiary’ in every sense of the word.

    Like an onion, as layer upon layer is pulled away in Steve Mims’ and Joe Bailey, Jr.’s film ‘Incendiary:  The Willingham Case,’ more and more is revealed and exposure to the deeper layers pulls at the tear ducts both in frustration and sadness.

-Neely Swanson

Easy Reader News

I found it terrifically interesting.

-Andy Klein


   For a heavy film, it’s surprisingly crowd-pleasing, getting vocal reactions from people who may not even have entered the theater feeling strongly about any of its issues...

    Yet, for a documentary about such a hard subject matter, INCENDIARY doesn’t attempt to pile on the emotion.  There are a number of scenes...packed with tears, but Bailey and Mims don’t mine those for a quick, emotional response. They’re simply presenting something that happened, even if it was nothing short of crushing.

    Well-executed, incredibly researched

...utterly fascinating and intensely involving.

-Kate Erbland

All the dramatic trappings of a John Grisham novel-turned-movie, but this is a troubling true tale...absorbing...”

-Stephanie Merry and Lavanya Ramanathan

The Washington Post   

(Silverdocs Standouts)

Gripping.  Stunning.  A film that should be mandatory viewing for all Texans, for all Americans, regardless of their view on the death penalty. 

Rating:  9/10.

-Linc Leifeste

Smells Like Screen Spirit

Sure the mega-plexes didn’t offer much substance in 2011, but cheer up Charlie because if you stuck close to the arthouse theaters then you found the golden tickets...

    without further ado I give you [our] Top 10 Films of 2011...

Smells Like Screen Spirit