The murder of three children who were left tied naked in a creek as part of a dark ritual sounds like something from a crime novel - but worse, it actually happened. Films based on true stories can be hit and miss, particularly those about criminal cases and legal proceedings. So which is ‘Devil’s Knot’ - hit or miss?
The West Memphis Three were three teenage boys accused of murdering three 10-year-old boys in a forest in West Memphis. The murders were gruesome, and The Three became suspects on the basis of their interest in the Occult, and the trumped-up testimony of another little boy. The progress of the case is amazing – the prosecution’s case is pathetic, and yet the matter proceeds.
Colin Firth, looking quite unlike himself, portrays private investigator Ron Lax, who assists with The Three’s defence due to his strong anti-capital punishment feelings. Firth’s casting is surprising, considering there must be lots of American actors who would have happily taken the role. However, he does a stellar job, his Memphis accent never faltering.
Reese Witherspoon looks particularly frumpy as a victim’s mother who suspects the case against the accused is not as solid as it should be. At the beginning of the film, she seems to be just phoning in her performance, but by the end warms into the role a little more, but never fully embraces her character. Fans of ‘True Blood’ will recognise Stephen Moyer as Prosecutor Fogelman, whose part is small, and seems to be closely based on Moyer’s Vampire Bill.
‘Devil’s Knot’ is a well-made exploration into the failings of justice, and worth viewing.
The start of the film is a little jumpy and incoherent, but soon settles into the story; however, apart from the main players, keeping the characters straight is a little tricky. The film touches on issues of racism, religious fervour, bigotry and stereotypes. I recommend a strong stomach for this one – not due to any blood or gore, but the discovery of the children’s bodies is fairly disturbing, mostly because it feels very real.
If these sorts of films interest you, ‘Devil’s Knot’ is a well-made exploration into the failings of justice, and worth viewing. Be sure to read the postscript at the end. For what it aims to do, the film falls well into the Hit category.