The Thin Blue Line (1988) (Unrated)
I'm not sure there has ever been a movie that is more realistically frightening than Errol Morris's "The Thin Blue Line". This documentary follows a crime that becomes a hazy ethical area for all those involved.
On a cold night in November, in Dallas Texas, a police officer pulls a car over and approaches the car and then is shot down. He is killed on the scene—bleeding out and the car pulls away, screeching and speeding. The officer's partner fires on the car, but is unable to hit it.
The murder of the officer leads to a manhunt that dissolves into a car-hunt. All they need to do is find the vehicle that the man was inside when he killed the officer—then, presumably, they'll have the murderer soon after. Clues piles up and testimonies start to contradict each other and then we are forced to recall the beginning of the movie...
Randall Adams was driving in his car, when he suddenly ran out of gas. The gas station was a far walk off, so he grabbed a gas can and started to trek towards a pump. Along comes David Harris, in a stolen car, who is out for a joy ride. Random coincidence places these two men together and neither of them know it yet, but their lives will forever be changed because of the encounter that they have.
Harris offers Adams a ride and they share a day together—they go get food and smoke marijuana and then go see a movie...and then they're stories differ.
When news of the police officer's death reaches the papers, these two men are trapped in it. Both of them think the other one committed the murder, and the film becomes an exposé of the murder.
It's startling to think that "The Thin Blue Line" is a documentary, it feels to fabricated to have any truth held inside it. But when you see Randall Adams's face and hear David Harris's voice, it's impossible to get it out of your head—this is all truth.
"The Thin Blue Line" could ravage the legal system—it has enough evidence and emotion to do so...but it doesn't. While the viewer is left stunned and unsure of what could happen to them in a court of law, the movie itself is just about the case. There are perhaps five full minutes in the film in which the interviewees rant about the 'justice' system, and how flawed it is. Their ranting is rightly defended, because by this time in the film, the audience fully agrees with them.
Now I'm not saying that this movie is presenting anarchy in a good light—because that's not the case. The movie is a can of worms that, once opened, can never be closed. It's the Pandora's box...if you will. The ideals and comments in the movie cannot be erased from the mind.
Instead of just being about the legal system and the case, something remarkable happens in "The Thin Blue Line"—it reveals a little something about human nature. Perhaps it was unintentional, but both Harris and Adams show us things about humanity that may make us proud...and scared.
"The Thin Blue Line" is not faultless, as fascinating the subject material is...it's not the most exciting movie ever.
"The Thin Blue Line" is one of the better documentaries. The power it has lies in the story it tells.
Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones