WRITTEN BY: Paul Harris Boardman, Scott DerricksonDIRECTED BY: Atom Egoyan
STARRING: Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, James Hamrick
RATING: 4 stars
Devil's Knot is based on a brutal and horrific true story about three boys who were murdered and the three teenagers perhaps wrongly accused of the crime. You will no doubt put your detective hat on as you watch the film and try to figure out what might have happened. The continuous shocks during the trial scenes will leave many gasping and shaking their head at the corruption. The resolution will likely leave you with an eerie feeling and the most curious viewers who are unfamiliar with the true story will probably jump straight onto the internet to find out what happened in real life with the case. If you have not seen the documentaries or know the story, then you will enjoy this dramatisation. If you are familiar with the case, you may not necessarily get as much out of the film.
Based on the book, Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three, the film is set in 1993 and tells the story of three boys who go out to ride their bikes after school and are found murdered the next day, naked and submerged in water. The detectives seem to mess up the investigation at every turn and eventually focus on three teenagers – Damien Echols (James Hamrick), Jessie Misskelley Jr (Kris Higgins) and Jason Baldwin (Seth Meriwether) – who they suspect killed the boys as part of their satanic beliefs. The townsfolk become hysterical, the media jumps on the bandwagon and soon the trio are on trial for murder in a community that has already condemned them.
Colin Firth plays Ron Lax, a strong-minded investigator seeking justice and a fair trial for the teenagers accused of murder. He seems to be the moral compass of the film and the closest character to representing the audience as each moment of corruption is revealed. Reese Witherspoon, who put on some weight for the role, is impressive as Pam Hobbs, a grieving mother who does not know what to believe. Hamrick is also a stand-out performer as the accused ring leader of the murders, while Alessandro Nivolo and Kevin Durand are both creepy as other parents. Unfortunately, there are a lot of good actors in minor roles who do not get to develop their characters well enough, including Dane DeHaan as an unusual witness and Stephen Moyer as a prosecutor.
Echols has reportedly spoken out against the film, but that is hardly surprising. Devil's Knot shows the power of rumours, fear and prejudice. It depicts just one story of injustice and is a gripping film for those unaware of the sad case.