With the recent true-crime spree of The Jinx, The People v. O.J. Simpson, and Making a Murderer taking over TV, audiences have announced how they want their homicide: long, bloody, and intensive. Comparatively, Netflix’s latest must-watch doc, Amanda Knox, feels almost like a nostalgic throwback to The Thin Blue Line and Paradise Lost, the shorter feature-length predecessors of our current cultural obsession.
The largely straightforward account of an American college student swept up in an Italian murder investigation and the media circus that erupted around it is a briskly paced and well-organized examination of Meredith Kercher’s gruesome 2007 death. For everyone who lost track of the trials, appeals, and independent investigations amid tabloid tales of a sex-torture party gone wrong, Amanda Knox will offer some much-needed clarity. The documentary features lengthy interview segments with Knox, her then boyfriend and accused co-conspirator Raffaele Sollecito, and Italian prosecutor and Sherlock Holmes admirer Giuliano Mignini, among others. What may at first seem like an overreliance on talking heads stunningly produces a different effect as the film unfolds. Watching the subjects speak directly into the camera — a technique made famous by Errol Morris (The Fog of War) — you feel an almost uncomfortable intimacy with them that leads to searching their words and body language for the truth, just as Italian authorities did when they believed they’d found the murderers. What you end up with are portraits of individuals — people who are scared or angry or ambitious — all a part of a story that, from the start, ignored their humanity. B+