Based on the kind of true story you'd prefer not to know is true.
Devil's Knot Blu-ray Review
Few parents would be able to think of something worse than the loss of a child. Devil’s Knot teases us with an answer, juxtaposing the murder of three young boys with the death sentence that may be levied upon their three suspected murderers... who may be innocent.Incisive director Atom Egoyan – who has made a name for himself delving into the human psyche, often explored through tragedy – takes things one step further here, as the inhabitants of a small town are overwhelmed by grief when three young children are found in the river, naked, bound and dead; but then turn to blind rage when they think that they have found individuals that they can blame for the crime.
Egoyan overtly echoes the Salem Witch Trials with his based-on-a-true-story tale of a town that turns on the three teens suspected of the murder of these young boys. The parents, religious community, law enforcement and even the judiciary can’t see clearly when faced with the potential to excise all of the hatred that they feel over the crimes committed upon these three teens.Reese Witherspoon manages to dress down for the occasion as the grieving parent of one of the young boys, struggling to survive the event, countenance her feelings towards those who may or may not have committed the crimes, deal with her blinded-by-rage husband (Face Off’s Alessandro Nivola) and come to terms with the fact that justice may not be served by the snowball rolling towards these men.
Smaller parts open up for CSI: Miami’s Rex Linn, Sabotage’s Mireille Enos, The Place Beyond the Pines’ Dane DeHaan, and Egoyan regular Elias Koteas, but the meat goes to Colin Firth as an outside investigator who offers to do the legwork for the overwhelmed defence lawyers. Firth brings perspective in a town which lacks it, but it is a testament to Egoyan that he doesn't paint his portrayal of the town with the same brand of prejudice that they themselves exhibited; instead allowing us to reach that conclusion ourselves.
Devil's Knot Blu-ray VideoDevil’s Knot hits UK shores as part of a Region B-locked package which provides the movie in a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 widescreen. It should be noted that this is the second title I’ve reviewed recently (c.f. Killing Season) where the UK release sports the correct aspect ratio of the film, and the US release adopts a repurposed 1.78:1 image instead. Whether or not the director allowed for this change is a different matter, but Devil’s Knot was shown in the cinemas in 2.39:1 so arguably it was meant to be seen that way, which certainly leaves UK viewers at a rare advantage.
Framed in the correct aspect ratio, this is one of those rare releases which puts UK viewers at an advantage over US, who are limited to a re-framed 1.78:1 ratio instead of the full 2.39:1.
It is a very nice offering, marking the first of director Atom Egoyan's films to be shot digitally, and looking suitably impressive as a result. Detail is excellent throughout, allowing for strong skin textures and clothing weaves, and superb fine object detail which pervades both the fore- and middle-ground. Longer shots are also refined, with no signs of any softness, and also no digital defects whatsoever. The colour scheme is natural, rich from the warm sunny tones and golden shades, and whilst it does not have any distinctly vibrant, vivid colours on offer, it provides a wholly authentic representation of what is, essentially, a documentary-style drama. Black levels are rich and deep, allowing for strong shadow detail and overall this is a demo presentation through and through, with perhaps only the innate limitations of the piece itself holding it back from being perfect 10 demo material.
Devil's Knot Blu-ray AudioOn the aural front the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is similarly only restricted by the source material, presenting it faithfully and authentically but simply not given anything with which to excite you or demo your sound system.
A perfectly good, faithful rendition, this was never going to be a demo track without the material to back it up.
It’s a dialogue-driven piece, and the dialogue is presented clearly and coherently throughout, dominating the fronts and centre channels for the majority of the proceedings. The score is a haunting, elegant piece which perfectly suits the material and is given some room to breathe across the array, seeping in and sweeping over you almost unnoticeably at times, but never aspiring to heavyweight intentions and so not really giving the LFE channel anything to do either. Effects are similarly restricted – the film only gets more absorbing during the heated courtroom sequences; arguments; police interrogations and other comparatively normal scenes, where raised voices mark some of the loudest elements on offer.
Devil's Knot Blu-ray ExtrasFor some reason, despite being a step ahead in terms of the video presentation, we now lag behind on the extras front, losing out on two short Featurettes present on the US release, and instead being left with just some Deleted Scenes. That said, it appears we get considerably more Deleted Footage, increasing the US's 5 minute offering to a 20-minute collection here. Other than that, just some Previews.
Devil's Knot Blu-ray VerdictIf you’ve never heard of the West Memphis Three, then this tale will be eye-opening, although it is difficult to swallow the truth, particularly when the answers are so elusive even to this day. There’s no doubt that Egoyan is adept at painting human tragedy, as is evident throughout this horrific true story, but this is far from a pleasant - or even satisfying - watch.
On Region B-locked Blu-ray we get a release both better and worse than its US counterpart – it’s better in that it provides the movie in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 (unlike the US Blu-ray which re-frames it in 1.78:1) but worse in that we appear to lose a couple of the Featurettes present on the US release (although we also appear to get more Deleted Footage). Fans will probably prefer to stick with the correct, original ratio, than worry about the short Featurettes, however, and so should favour the UK version.
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