West of Memphis

Rated R 147 minutes 2012

The case of the West Memphis Three—the teenage boys convicted on shaky evidence for the 1993 murders of three eight-year-olds—has already been covered in a trilogy of documentaries by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (Paradise Lost and its sequels), but this summation is such a powerful piece of storytelling that it feels authoritative. Director Amy Berg (Deliver Us From Evil) creates a sprawling, novelistic structure, rendering in acute psychological detail literally dozens of people, including the incarcerated three (now men in their mid-30s, released from prison but not exonerated), members of their families, various figures in the Arkansas legal system, and some of the activists who fought to get the case retried. Less an investigative report than a portrait of the community that forms around an ongoing court case, this conveys a patient understanding of the intricacies of law and human behavior that may be termed Kieslowskian.

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