Like the old adage timing really is everything. Nothing exemplifies this better than The Thin Blue Line. Every once in a while a story comes along that captivates the nation and visionary director Errol Morris seemed to be at the right place at the right time when investigating the murder of Dallas police officer Robert Wood. All the stars were aligned for Morris who was actually coming to Texas to interview Dr. James Grigson, a Dallas psychiatrist nicknamed “Doctor Death” but after interviewing Randall Adams who was convicted of killing Wood, Morris began to shift gears on his topic. Adams was in the 11th year of his life sentence for the crime he insists he didn’t commit. To make matters worse there was evidence pointing towards the supposed witness to the crime David Harris, but he was a minor at the time of the murder and it was easier to prosecute Adams. Call it fate, call it karma, Harris ended up in jail for another crime in 1985, just in time for the filming of the documentary. You cannot make this shit up, this film reminded me of a hoaxy James Patterson novel. The beauty of this film is that it became bigger than Morris ever could have conceived and I must say—-it is nothing short of miraculous. During the final scene Harris confesses to the crime and Adams walks out a free man. This is the perfect Shawshank Redemption-esque fairytale ending that we all were rooting for. To top it off, the final scene of Harris, who talks wonderingly about the fact that a person’s whole life can be changed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Is Randall Adams an innocent man?” Morris asks Harris.
“I’m sure he is.” “How can you be sure?” “Because I’m the one that knows.”
This dialogue was initially meant to be shot using a camera, but Morris’s equipment broke down that day and they resorted to a tape recorder to capture the dialogue. Perfect timing right? I think so, its chilling to the bone and really captures the eeriness of the entire case.
The style of filming breaks all the traditions of the documentary format, including the interview process where the interviewee is looking into a mirrored lens that makes it look like they are talking to someone across from them. Morris also makes use of visually striking objects such as a swinging clock, the use of cop lights, and reenactments from the night of the murder. The thing I like most about Morris’s style was the decision not to use narration or voiceovers, the film flows smoothly without someone guiding us along which makes the viewer engage themselves into the characters even more.