Title – Devil’s Knot (2013)
Director – Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter)
Cast – Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, Alessandro Nivola, Amy Ryan, James Hamrick, Dane DeHaan, Kevin Durand
Plot – When three young boys are found savagely murdered in the small West Memphis community, a group of supposedly devil worshipping teenagers lead by Damian Echols (Hamrick) are put on trial for the grisly crime. Grieving mother Pam Hobbs (Witherspoon) and determined investigator Ron Lax (Firth) see something more in the case and start to question just who may or may not be involved in the horrendous crime.
“You’re supposed to be a grieving mother. You start behaving like one”
Review by Eddie on 23/02/2015
It was always going to be a tricky proposition for whoever decided to take on the horrific true life story of the West Memphis 3 and the murders of 3 young boys in 1993, a case that has been documented in fascinating fashion in such documentaries as the haunting Paradise Lost and more recently West of Memphis. These documents of the murders and subsequent trial of Damian Echols and his supposed cronies were such in depth looks into the case and they were just some of many elements of the lore surrounding the event which includes books, investigations and countless other looks about who may have been the murderer and motivation etc. So being a tricky task already to make a meaningful movie of this story, it doesn’t help that Atom Egoyan’s Devil’s Knot is such a heartless and sombre affair.
Atom Egoyan has in the past shown himself to be a director of quite some talent yet whatever past glories he may’ve had behind camera in his previous films, there is none such evidence of skill here. While there is no doubting Devil’s Knot gets off to a fine start, things quickly disappear into a murky rabbit hole of a movie that doesn’t know where to focus or who to focus on. Egoyan directs in such a way that shows a bewildering lack of effort or thought and the film plods from scene to scene in such a manner that you’d be hard pressed to remember what happened mere minutes ago. The stories aforementioned intrigue as well is shamefully lost here as revelations come and go and potentially emotional jumping off points never eventuate, along with a cast that never sparks.
In what must of looked like Oscar bait to them, previous Oscar winners Reese Witherspoon and the in need of a hit Colin Firth deliver insipid turns as grieving mother Pam Hobbs and investigator Ron Lax respectively. Witherspoon gained some noticeable weight for her particular role but that’s about the only gravitas she brings to the table here while Firth meanders about with no particular creativity which is a shame as these characters as shown in the stand out documentaries are larger than life. We never feel Pam’s grief or Ron’s fierce determination for truth and while the child actors playing the accused teenagers lead by James Hamrick’s Echols look the part, they barely get a moment to do anything in the unfocussed narrative. Dane DeHaan as potential suspect Chris Morgan is the stand out performer here which is sad considering his short screen time.
Uninvolving and just generally misguided, Devil’s Knot is by no means a necessary or quality entry into this sad true life story’s film canon. You get the feeling that down the line a much better and more heartfelt approach to these people’s tale will be told but in the meantime all we have is Egoyan’s forgettable film and some worryingly lame performances from two A-list actors. For what is a shocking and intriguing story, Devil’s Knot is barely even mildly interesting.
1 and a half misplaced blood sample out of 5