Quick recap: A documentary from Errol Morris, who attempts to prove a man has been wrongly convicted of murder. The story takes place in Dallas, Texas where there has never been any controversy with pegging the wrong guy for murder.
Fun (?) fact: After having his conviction overturned (SPOILER ALERT. I should really do those sooner), Randall Adams sued Morris over the rights to his life.
My thoughts: I had been looking forward to this documentary for awhile A) because I love documentaries and B) because Errol Morris appeared on ‘Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me’ and was pretty funny. Thinking back a bit, there haven’t been many documentaries I have disliked, not even Dear Zachary, which completely broke me until I wished I could no longer feel feelings. Considering all these things, The Thin Blue Line seemed like a slam dunk perfect rating from me.
The case itself is pretty straightforward: A drifter by the name of Randall Adams comes to Dallas looking for a job. Along the way he meets up with teenager David Harris. The two drink a little, smoke a little and watch a movie or two. Later on at night, a man is pulled over by a cop. As the cop walks up to the car he is shot several times and dies. Seeing how it’s the 70’s, it’s really difficult to find the person who did the shooting because all the police have to go on is a poor description of a vehicle. There was another cop in the car that night who was supposed to get out and back her partner up, but instead sat in the car sipping a milkshake. After the officer was shot she dropped the milkshake and allegedly fired shots into the fleeing vehicle. About a month later David Harris reemerged in his hometown, bragging about killing a cop so that somehow led police to arrest Randall Adams instead.
To cut to the chase, I feel like Adams was probably innocent (and the court agreed too because his case was overturned) but I don’t believe Morris made an ironclad argument. There were a lot of details that showed the ineptitude of the investigators- focusing on Adams from the beginning and then finding evidence to back them up, as well as the witnesses who claimed to have driven by as the cop pulled someone over. But there were also a few unanswered questions for me: Harris said he was a ‘scared 16 year old kid’ but he had already done a lot of crimes so why did this cop scare him enough to shoot? And it was also never answered where Adams was the night of the murder. Could he have been in the car?
Moving away from my super scholarly arguments, I mostly disliked this documentary because it was SO literal. A person mentions that it was after midnight and you see a clock pointing to midnight. An investigator mentions hypnosis and there’s a watch swinging back and forth. The investigator mentions the police officer throwing her milkshake out the window and then that’s what you see because it’s apparently really difficult to imagine that. The reenacted scenes were also a little hokey. I like that Morris continued to use the description of Adams instead of Harris so that the audience could see how little belief that theory held, but I got tired of watching the cop get shot 10 different times. The milkshake getting tossed never got old though. I hope it was at least a strawberry flavor.
Final review: 2/5. Meh.
Up next: Jaws at the Drafthouse.