Perhaps the only way to enjoy Devil’s Knot is to go in to it not knowing anything about the real-life murder case it’s based on. The general consensus among those who already know the story, and who have already seen the documentary films examining the West Memphis Three, seems to be that Atom Egoyan’s dramatization is not only a waste of time, but also an insult to those who have worked tirelessly to uncover the truth.
As a straightforward crime-drama, the film suitably grips its audience, with lingering night shots and sounds being used to good effect. Reese Witherspoon handles the material well, doing her up-most to flesh out a slightly two dimensional depiction of Pamela Hobbs, mother of one of the young boys killed in the West Memphis murders of 1993. Her grief is undoubtedly the heart of the story, and this means that the turmoil of the teenagers haphazardly accused of the crime is arguably not handled with the intensity it deserves. Colin Firth is a bizarre choice for Ron Pax, the private detective hired by the defense to find holes in the case against Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., and yet he too is watchable.
It seems the main criticisms of the film stem from what little it does to differentiate itself from what has already been achieved in terms of exposing the contradictory facts and injustices surrounding the now infamous murders. It is true that the film’s narrative profundity leaves something to be desired, but in this way the story plays out as a kind of respectable re-enactment. It’s just a shame that every base that the Devil’s Knot most certainly hits, is one that has already been covered long before now.
FINAL VERDICT: ★ ★ ★ 1/2