Devil’s Knot Screen 12 articles

Devil’s Knot


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  • Considering how much actual footage the movie had to work from, the most shocking thing about Devil’s Knot is how cruddy it looks. Grungy, cluttered homes have been replaced with posh suburban sets. The TV-movie aesthetics extend to the casting, with glamorous actors playing parts they can’t hope to imbue with the vividness and intensity we’ve seen in the non-fiction films.

  • Mostly, though, Devil’s Knot just plays like a weirdly synthetic restaging of scenes from the documentary Paradise Lost, as actors try and fail to re-create the overwhelming emotional intensity of that real footage.

  • The problem is, there is nothing new in the film, no new insight, no new perspective, no attempt at reinterpretation. Watching the visually completely transparent film that bears a resemblance to a cheap TV drama, one keeps on asking oneself: “What for?”

  • It's apparent that Egoyan doesn't want to offend anyone by elaborating dramatically on such a well-publicized murder case, and this hypocritical prestige-movie skittishness is more offensive than ordinary sensationalism. [Egoyan] trades on the notoriety of real events for the sake of dimly lit, moodily scored thriller portent, but in a gingerly fashion that skirts the grotesquerie of the crimes. We're left with a superficial CliffsNotes encapsulation of moments we've already seen quasi-directly.

  • While Egoyan and Co. are to be commended for doing a tactful, dignified job with material that could have made for a ghoulish horror show, the result nevertheless comes across as a flat, ponderous proposition, transforming a fascinating tale of small-town prejudice and miscarried justice into a surprisingly staid courtroom drama.

  • Unfolding plainly as a perfunctory procedural-cum-courtroom drama, Devil's Knottells the highly publicized story as if for the first time, inviting the audience to be appalled all over again, and failing to ask compelling questions that would merit the relevance of a fictional film about the subject in 2013.

  • For most of its running time, “Devil’s Knot” resembles a courtroom thriller—and yet because we know in advance what the court’s verdict will be, there can be no pretense of tension in awaiting the climax of the trial. Instead, a palpable resignation settles in: all we can do is watch helplessly as the machinations of the legal system conspire to obstruct justice and pervert the principles of law.

  • Colin Firth plays a real-life investigator whom the script renders as noble as Atticus Finch. Reese Witherspoon does haunting work as a victim’s mom. But the stately pace and the faultless art direction add to the impression that truth was not only stranger, but more dramatic.

  • The film is a respectful, intelligent real-life drama about the effect of ghastly crimes on a community, and the role that hysteria, social stereotyping and religious bigotry played in it... But it's not penetrating or insightful enough to erase or even compete with memories of the real-life participants as they appeared in news stories and documentary features.

  • This film needs someone who can handle genre elements and dense narrative detail while never losing sight of the cascading tragedies at the heart of the tale — three lives lost, and countless others ruined. Egoyan seems like the perfect choice. Which makes the disappointment of Devil’s Knot that much more striking. It’s not a bad film, exactly, but it’s a jumbled, uncertain one, and it never quite makes a compelling case for itself.

  • While offering no single character focus, Devil's Knot is a ripped-from-the-headlines crime procedural that the lab boys down at Wikipedia HQ would be extremely proud of. The ambiguities and nuances of the case (of which there are legion) receive scant lip service and are revealed from the safe moral vantage point of the present.

  • It's not just that Firth makes for a comical American Southerner (although he shore do!). His crime-procedural plot grinds Devil's Knot to a halt every time it shows up. That's a problem, because the Lax narrative is apparently supposed to be the motor which makes this a "real movie" and not an artsy mood piece about brooding and loss.

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