Documentary Review Week: The Thin Blue Line

Every film has a story, but with crime documentaries it’s crucial.
It needs events and mysteries that are uncovered as the plot thickens.
Each morsel of juicy information to be digested and examined, as the audience finds themselves in the shoes of the detectives uncovering the truth behind a heinous crime.
However we’ll all find out that this is harder than it seems when it comes down to The Thin Blue Line.

The film opens with accounts from two men: David Harris, a drifter picking up a man on the road side who had ran out of petrol, and Randall Adams, said man who’d ran out of petrol on his way back from work.
Both men recount a day of drinking, drug taking, chilling and movie watching before returning back to Adam’s motel room he was sharing with his brother.
Unfortunately their stories differ when a policeman is gunned down from their car when it gets pulled over on the way back to the motel.
So ladies and gentleman: who shot the policeman?

The plot may seem simple on paper, but once it comes to light that the policeman’s partner is a bit hazy on the details and there are no reliable witnesses or evidence , it ends up becoming a twisted narrative of reveals, shock and disbelief.

Errol Morris interviews and questions many individuals related to the case, from Adams and Harris themselves to the large amount of law officials including policeman, politicians, judges and lawyers. All of these people tell their side of the story and elucidate perfectly to ensnare us into the folds and creases of the details, each giving the audience new insights and points of view of the details of the case as well as giving us a snapshot of the attitudes regarding law and order in past times.
A standout moment for me was a so called “witness” to the crime, a middle aged lady with semi circular drawn on eyebrows and a terrifying demeanour, with eyes that dived into your soul, clearly relishing the drama of the crime.

Though recreating events and witness statements with dramatic re-enactments may seem second nature today (the TV show CSI is pretty much built around this technique) it was actually groundbreaking and innovative at the time, allowing audiences to follow such a complex flow of differing statements of the events that took place as well as visualising key information of the case.
Though this is done with great effect it’s the recurring imagery of the key aspects of the events that really give impact, like the ashtray overflowing with cigarette ends, the thick milkshake thrown from the police car moments after the shooting and the gun peering out the window before it’s shots end a life.
All of this is enhanced by the score of the film, which haunts it’s way throughout the film, invoking a combination of revelatory excitement and dread.

It’s really paramount to the films success that after a bleak result to such unfortunate events, the last sequence of just a mere tape recording emitting from a lone recorder on a desk will leave you chilled to the bone.

The film had me hooked but it will take you for a spin.
For even after it all ends, we may never know the full truth.

The Thin Blue Line – 10/10



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