#TIFF13: “DEVIL’S KNOT”
On May 5, 1993, three eight-year-old West Memphis Boys: Stevie Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers went missing. Their bodies later were found bound, beaten and sexually mutilated after an intensive search. Convinced that this was the work of a Satanic Cult, the local Police Department arrest three Teenage Boys: Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., taking them to trial. All but the latter maintain their innocence, although it is learned that the latter is mentally handicapped and only confessed after enduring many hours of interrogation. Toronto’s Atom Egoyan brings to the Big Screen Mara Leveritt‘s Book, Devil’s Knot and those of us attending TIFF will have the opportunity to first to see this riveting and heartbreaking True Story.
It is almost impossible not to walk away from this biographical Crime-Thriller-Drama feeling infuriated. And perhaps that is how we know that it succeeds in delivering the bigger picture about the circumstances surrounding these tragic Murders and also equally tragic failures of the Justice System. Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson‘s Screenplay perhaps for a few moments oversimplifies some of the complexities particularly in the Court scenes. Through it all though, we are left wanting more character development especially in the Story’s three most prominent Voices: Ron Lax, Pam Hobbs and Damien Echols.
Colin Firth is fantastic here as Lax, a Private Investigator determined to prevent these three young Men from facing a doomed fate in being sentenced to death for crimes he is certain they did not commit. Alas, we too experience his uphill battle as he goes against forces which are greater than him. Reese Witherspoon as Hobbs, the Mother of Stevie Branch (Jet Jurgensmeyer), shows great depth and range, embodying the struggle to grieve and a failure to comprehend with all the uncertainties surrounding her Son’s death. Alessandro Nivola certainly carries his weight well as Stevie‘s Stepfather Terry, giving us a sense of mystery and just off-putting enough, becoming somewhat of a go-to as the Anti-Father Figure in his castings of late.
Although brief, there are some fantastic turns from Amy Ryan as Lax‘s Ex-Wife, Mireille Enos as Vicki Hutchenson whom we learn plays an integral part in the Boys’ arrests and also our own Kevin Durand, almost unrecognizable as a heavy-set, Mullet-sporting John Mark Byers, adoptive Father of Victim, Christopher Byers.
Remstar Films will release Devil’s Knot in Canada. Those of you attending TIFF ’13 have two chances to see it:
Sunday, September 8, 2013 – Visa Screening Room (Elgin) at 9:00 PM
Monday, September 9, 2013 – TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 at 9:00 AM