Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Thin Blue Line (1988) NR - 3½ Stars

Though this documentary was made a while ago, it still is a fascinating look into the murder of officer Robert Wood, in Dallas Texas in 1976. Based on a true story, this documentary helped free a convicted man, Randall Adams, sentenced for the murder of officer Wood. Though a tragic story, it's a good film that sucks you emotionally over the almost comical eye witnesses perception of the truth. David Harris was allowed to walk free while Randall Adams was convicted based on this eye witnesses testimony even though the witnesses had a hard time getting their stories straight.

Errol Morris's documentary is so powerful, it helped free Randall Adams from death row, changing the power of documentary film making forever. Morris allows you, the viewer, to form your own opinion while pointing out all of the errors in judgment by the Texas police department and their star witnesses. It will anger you as things like this happen today leading to the wrongful incarnation of the wrong person. Makes you want to take off your shoe and throw it at the screen. Also features Gus Rose, Jackie Johnson, and Marshall Touchton, Dallas Homicide Detectives, Attorneys Dennis White, Edith James and Judge Don Metcalfe.

The story briefly:
Randall Adams was driving in Texas and ran out of gas. 16 year old David Harris, a runaway, offered Adams a ride. The two drifters became friends and even attended a movie together while drinking and smoking pot. While Adams claims he was then dropped off at the motel he was staying in, Harris says the two were together and Adams shot officer Robert Wood who stopped them and approached the car. In the heat of things Woods's partner couldn't remember if the car was a Vega or a Comet or if the driver had bushy hair or perhaps was wearing a coat lined with fur. As eye witnesses stepped forward, it clouded the evidence even more.

David Harris ended up being a witness against Adams. It seems more people thought Adams looked like a killer than Harris and with the many erroneous eye witness testimonies, a jury still convicted Adams of the murder. In a rush to judgement Adams was sentenced and the case closed. Later, David Harris would confess to the crime and is now on death row. This film was made for under $18,000 proving once again it doesn't take big money to make a good movie if you've got a great story. Original music score by Philip Glass.

1988 - Edgar Allan Poe Awards - Best Screenplay
1988 - National Board of Review - Best Documentary
1988 - New York Film Critics Circle - Best Documentary
2001 - Library of Congress - U.S. National Film Registry

Vanguard Films, Sound One, Third Floor Productions
Director: Errol Morris
Writer: Errol Morris
Producers: Lidsay Law, Mark Lipson
I viewed 11/10

No comments: