The Thin Blue Line is dark.
I’m not referring to the content, though I wouldn’t argue that, I’m speaking in literal terms. The film is visually dark, especially in the reenactments. Today, reenactments seem to be the norm for most of the historical documentaries you might see on PBS. This was not the case back then, and while I don’t think director Errol Morris NEEDED them, I sure do think he was right to put them in. The reenactments make the movie more sinister with the troubling subject matter already in consideration. Morris was smart to use the shadows and show absolutely NO faces in the reenactments. He doesn’t show much of anything outside of the shadows. Take a scene where someone is using a typewriter. Even this is a reenactment, but it happened, and using the same words (however you’ll see no more than the person’s fingers) It doesn’t matter when the murdered police officer’s partner got out to shoot, the shooter inside the car or the testifying couple driving by, you can’t see anything. Except the milkshake the partner throws out the window which is the brightest moment in the non interview portions. The interviews are enough, and mixing it with newspaper headlines and pictures were highly effective, but the additions help hit it home. To “see” what is going on targets emotions more than people talking, which isn’t to be ignored as the content to which they speak is heavily loaded.
Finding out this movie helped Randall Dale Adams be released from prison is amazing. It shows how powerful film can be. I’m not sure how the justice system worked but somewhere along the way someone decided “maybe this isn’t exact..” The film wants to support Adams, at least I feel it does. And it does this while being very fair to BOTH Adams and Harris. Their interview segments don’t seem biased, they are both given their say. The rest of the interviews can be difficult because we choose who to trust and who is more competent. The reenactments ADDED next to the interviews of Adams almost beg you as a viewer to root for him. I don’t think they are biased reenactments as they try to keep a neutral portrait of the events in the darkness. It can’t be claimed that everything happened exactly the way they chose to retell and edit it of course, but dammit the milkshake stays in the film!