Combustible Celluloid
 

West of Memphis (2012)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Crimes After Crimes

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

With the documentary West of Memphis, director Amy Berg (Deliver Us from Evil) takes on material that has already been covered in three other documentaries: Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky's Paradise Lost trilogy, released in 1996, 2000, and 2011. That's already about seven hours of material, and Berg's film adds another two and a half hours. Yet it's absolutely gripping.

The movie tells the story of the "West Memphis Three," a case of three teens, Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols, and Jason Baldwin, arrested for the murder of three young boys in 1993.

The film explores in depth all the evidence that points to the innocence of the three, and comes up with a new suspect. It also tells something of a love story, as Lorris Davis falls in love with Echols and works hard to get him released. Indeed, since the original film, many activists have become involved in this story, including director Peter Jackson (who produced this film) and musician Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. It's easy to see why: Berg's film shows not only the gross incompetence of the judicial system -- as well as their reluctance to admit mistakes -- but also how the lives of nearly everyone involved was damaged and destroyed.

West of Memphis gets you riled up and on the edge of your seat. In fact, I did something with this film that I never expected would happen: I kept hoping it would go on longer.


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Trailer | Soundtrack
With: Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, Lorris Davis, Peter Jackson, Eddie Vedder
Written by: Amy Berg, Billy McMillin
Directed by: Amy Berg
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent content and some language
Running Time: 147 minutes
Date: February 8, 2013

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