Over the past two decades, the story of the West Memphis Three has gotten tons of press coverage, and been the been the subject of three separate documentaries. Since the murdered bodies of three young boys were discovered in an Arkansas creek in 1993, rumors of satanic cults, corruption, and racism has attracted media from around the world. When it was discovered that accused murderers Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin were apparently railroaded by a system and a town more eager to hold someone responsible for the murders then seek real justice, the case became a “cause célèbre.”

One would assume that director Atom Egoyan (Exotica) made Devil’s Knot thinking of those who have no prior knowledge of the case. Quite honestly, his narrative doesn’t cover any new ground, and providing a dramatization of events is a losing battle when there are very good documentaries available that tell the story. At least Egoyan got a couple of solid actors to reenact events.

In 1993, three young boys went out to play and never returned home. When their bodies are found, panic ripples through an Arkansas community, with the mother of one victim, Pam Hobbs (Reese Witherspoon) demanding that the murderer(s) be found immediately. Feeling pressure to make their case, law enforcement follows questionable clues that ultimately lead them to arrest Damien Echols (James Hamrick), Jessie Misskelley (Kristopher Higgins), and Jason Baldwin (Seth Meriwether). Special investigator Ron Lax (Colin Firth) begins to have questions about the prosecution, and starts to take a second look at the evidence. He’s dealing with a host of his own personal problems—he’s going through a divorce, and is a bit distracted—but he makes sure to make it clear he’s against the prosecution. Even so, we’re supposed to believe that Lax is obsessed with the case, but where’s the passion? He supposedly is convinced these young men didn’t commit this crime, and they’re facing life in prison. Passion is called for.

I just couldn’t lose the feeling that there doesn’t seem to be much reason for this film to exist, and lots of talent was wasted. Neither Reese Witherspoon nor Colin Firth are given much to do with their characters, and the dry narrative makes it difficult to care about them. Devil’s Knot doesn’t offer anything new about the West Memphis Three, and worse yet, omits some important details. If you want to learn about this case, I would suggest checking out one of the documentaries instead.

Presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Image’s 1080p transfer is very clear. There is no evidence of DNR or other tinkering. Depth is quite good, with just a few moments of softness throughout. Black levels are excellent and colors are vibrant with no bleeding. Flesh tones look natural.

The English DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track wont shake your room, but it does offer some basic ‘thriller’ sonics. LFE is low here, but beat does tune up when called for. The surrounds aren’t particularly full here, coming mostly from the backends. The setup does allow for nice presentation of ambient sounds. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout.

English SDH, and Spanish subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • The Making of Devil’s Knot (HD, 6:57) Brief interviews with Egoyan, author Mara Leveritt, Witherspoon, Firth, actor Stephen Moyer who plays lead prosecutor John Fogleman, and others.
  • Getting into Character: The Cast of Devil’s Knot (HD, 7:48) The stars and supporting cast talk about their roles in the film.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 5:43) Two scenes that would have added very little to the overall film.
  • DVD of the film.