The Thin Blue Line

The Thin Blue Line

Any prosecutor can convict a guilty man. It takes a great prosecutor to convict an innocent man.

The Thin Blue Line, a documentary by Errol Morris, chronicles the case of Randall Dale Adams, a man convicted of killing a police officer and sentenced to death row, a sentence which would ultimately be commuted to a life sentence, of which Adams would serve 12 years. The documentary makes the case that Adams did not, in fact, commit the crime for which he was convicted, but was merely acquainted with the young man who really did the killing, and was targeted as the murderer because he, unlike the 17-year-old who was the target of much of the evidence, could be sentenced to death in the state of Texas for the crime. The film holds a lot of power, so much so that Adams’ case was re-opened as a result of the film, and he was eventually found to be not guilty of the crime and was subsequently released from prison. Tell that to your favorite documentary.

The film dives right into the material with absolutely zero introduction of what we’ll be exploring, so a little bit of research beforehand will probably do some good as to what the documentary is at least about. What makes The Thin Blue Line work so much better than most other documentaries, especially for the time, is how Morris dramatizes the events in Adams’ life and his case. He directs them with the eye of a fiction filmmaker; this isn’t your typical reenactment of a crime or a police interview, this is a true story unfolding on the screen, with full cinematic techniques and a keen sense of storytelling power. I was also glad to see Philip Glass’ name in the credits; a Philip Glass score is always extremely memorable in whatever film it may be in, and this was no exception.

I haven’t seen too many documentaries, but this was still unlike so many that I’ve seen that it became highly engaging as a result. It’s always interesting to watch a documentary and see how words and opinions can be twisted depending on who is saying them, and how they are being said, and this is especially true for the real life police case this film documents. There’s a lot to like about The Thin Blue Line, but I will say this; despite its unique innovations and unique approach to telling its story, if you’re not a fan of documentaries, this might be a hard one for you to manage, not to mention it’ll be a hard sell. All I can say is, thanks to the spectacularly done reenactment sequences and the always amazing Philip Glass score, this is definitely one to check out, at the very least.

Arbitrary Rating: 8/10

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