Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Dane DeHaan, Mireille Enos, Kevin Durand, Elias Koteas, Stephen Moyer, Amy Ryan, Martin Henderson, Alessandro Nivola, Bruce Greenwood, Collette Wolfe, Kristoffer Polaha, Matt Letscher, Michael Gladis, Lori Beth Sikes, Rex Linn
Written by: Paul Harris Boardman, Scott Derrickson, based on a book by Mara Leveritt
Directed by: Atom Egoyan
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 114
Date: 05/09/2014
IMDB

Devil's Knot (2014)

2 Stars (out of 4)

West Memphis 3.5

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This powerful story has already been told in greater depth in four documentaries: Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's three Paradise Lost films, released in 1996, 2000, and 2011, and Amy Berg's West of Memphis (2012). The story has become fairly well known, attracting celebrity activists such as Peter Jackson and Eddie Vedder. So a feature film treatment at this point seems opportunistic at best.

Atom Egoyan's Devil's Knot tells the true story of the murder of three young boys in 1993 in West Memphis, Arkansas, followed by the controversial trial that convicted three teen boys, known as the West Memphis Three, based on circumstantial evidence. The general perception is that the authorities saw the teens with fear and discrimination based on their clothes, their taste in heavy metal music, and their interest in the occult.

The movie focuses on two specific characters, a sad, divorced investigator, Ron Lax (Colin Firth), who believes that the teens are innocent, and the mother of one of the murdered boys, Pamela Hobbs (Reese Witherspoon), who begins to doubt her convictions as the trial goes on.

Acclaimed, Oscar-nominated director Egoyan is another factor; in his career, he bounces back and forth between sexy, voyeuristic films (Exotica, Where the Truth Lies, Chloe) where he seems comfortable, and heavy, preachy, message-heavy art films (Ararat, Adoration), where he does not.

Further, comparing Devil's Knot to his somewhat similar The Sweet Hereafter (his greatest film), it's easy to see that, where that earlier film had grace, depth, and beauty, Devil's Knot seems all chilly surface, skimming over details and adding only cursory character elements, such as Pamela Hobbs' visit to her dead son's classroom, or Ron Lax's budding -- and never resolved -- romance with a diner waitress. Lacking community or connection, it's a movie of gloomy resignation.

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