This unforgetable and legendary documentary relives a real crime from multiple viewpoints. Like Rashmon, you get many versions of the event, each story told from the perspective of a different persuasive person. You don’t know who to believe. As variations of the day’s events are re-enacted over and over again, your sympathy is whipped back and forth from one plausible person to the next. Eventually, after many changes of mind, the truth dawns on you, as the director Errol Morris hopes it would, and it doesn’t jive with the verdict. But because you’ve gone down so many alternatives, the final conclusion is hard to shake off. After watching this brilliant film the necessary judges admitted ordered a retrial. So now this documentary has the unique distinction of being an artwork responsible for freeing an innocent man wrongly jailed. Not many films can say that. The film is heroic, and more entertaining than the best fictionalized crime show. However, the way the released film influenced the courts in real life, and the bizarre events it unleashed in the lives those it touched, including the director, demand a film of its own, a film that sadly has not been made. You’ll have to read about it online. In any case, Thin Blue Line is the canonical crime documentary, impeccably crafted, as it artfully plays upon your belief, and shows how hard it is to discern the truth. It’s a great ride.
“The Thin Blue Line blew me away. I didn’t actually know it was a documentary until the end when the credits rolled. I was chilled to the bone from it.” — Tom Bourgeois
Thin Blue Line
Directed by Errol Morris
1988, 82 min.
$3, Amazon Instant Video rental
Read more about the film at Wikipedia
Rent from Netflix
Available from Amazon