Documentary of the Day – The Thin Blue Line

So apparently it is hard to find a trailer of this documentary that doesn’t make this out to be something that it is not.  All the current trailers for this are older and cut in a way to make the Errol Morris directed documentary out to be some sort of crime film.  It’s weird really since that isn’t what the documentary isn’t about, but it does play out that way.  I remember the first Errol Morris documentary I saw back in 2003 entitled The Fog of War, which I ended up doing a review over.  Now I was only 18 at the time of this coming out and relatively new to whole documentary film genre.  After watching The Fog of War, I was enthralled with Morris documentaries and went on to watch his work like A Brief History of Time and today’s post, The Thin Blue Line.

The Thin Blue Line depicts the story of Randall Dale Adams, a man who was convicted of the murder of Dallas Police Officer Robert W. Wood on November 28, 1976.  Adams was convicted of the crime, which he claims he never committed and sentenced to death.  Adams was arrested and tried based on the testimony of 16-year-old David Ray Harris, who knew about the crime and led them to Adams, who was a resident of Ohio staying in a hotel near the scene of the crime with his brother.  Morris documented the testimony and history of the crime through the use of interviews from the key people of the trail, as well as detailed reenactments that highlighted the crime that took place.

The documentary is fascinating, making a story out of a sensational trial while framing the film to be for Adams.  Now I am sure there are some people out there that will shun the film for not being objective.  While I tend to side with documentaries that are out for a witch hunt or showing only one side of the debate, The Thin Blue Line actually works in that it attempts to recreate the trial and crime with the same evidence that was presented.  It’s almost this clinical precision in the care and effort that Morris went through to get it all right and the finished product makes a compelling case to show that Adams is an innocent man.

Artistically done reenactments and the interview style testimony and retelling of details from people involved with the trial make this documentary a lot more personable.  Morris has a gift for presenting an eye-to-eye retelling of a story or facts, which is effective in connecting with the audience, thus drawing us into the researched documentary.  The Thin Blue Line really changed the game of investigative documentaries.  The well developed research and interviews propelled the documentary and made the point of view of the film, rather than the documentarian making the point of view.  It’s the careful attention to details and a personal insight into the trial that has The Thin Blue Line being heralded as a powerful work of art.  Some credit the documentary with helping get Adams released from prison after a successful reversal of the death sentence to a life sentence, then the eventual appeal that led the prosecuting team to drop it all together.

This might not be your thing, which is fine really since it a documentary that toes the line between being a crime film and a nonfiction documentary.  It’s still a technical work that should be admired from Morris, who’s documentary was preserved by the National Film Registry and Roger Ebert placed it on his best of list in 1988.  The reenactments of the crime kind of had an influence on the police procedural that we see today on television, which is a good contribution depending on which crime show you watch.  It really is one of the documentaries that you should see if you are a documentary fan like myself.  Morris is a visionary and gifted documentary filmmaker who brings us closer to the subject matter than any other person out there.  He pioneered unique way to interview the subject, almost having them stare right at us, giving the illusion that they are directly speaking with us.

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

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