AMANDA KNOX Review
Directors: Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn
Netflix is at it again with another true-crime documentary. And why not? After the massive success — and ensuing legal hubbub — of MAKING A MURDERER, the streaming platform has found its niche. The fact of the matter remains that non-fiction stories of this nature, especially ones wrapped up in intrigue, sex, exploitation, media, and police incompetence, are a couch potato’s wet dream. With AMANDA KNOX we have a harsh retelling of a legal drama that covers all of these bases and then some. But one thing makes this firework really crackle: It might just be the single most character intensive mystery-thriller-documentary on the market. Fire up your wi-fi, we’ve got a live one.
The magic of AMANDA KNOX is that it isn’t a series. It’s not even half as big, complex, or conspiracy-laden as its contemporaries THE JINX or SERIAL. But what it lacks in narrative depth it more than makes up for in character and theme. Before I go any further, though, let me make it abundantly clear that the Amanda Knox case is anything but boring; this is the story of a young, beautiful college girl who found herself at odds with the Italian police after her roommate is found stabbed to death during a study abroad program. It has all the trappings of a great thriller, and directors Brian McGinn and Rod Blackhurst are certainly aware of this.
The face of…
Nothing here is drawn out. This is a documentary that is ruthlessly to the point. AMANDA KNOX throws us right into the action, and we are, much like our heroine, left to fend for ourselves amidst a completely surreal experience. It is the single closest thing a documentary has ever come to reenacting Albert Camus’s THE STRANGER. It might appear like an odd comparison, but existential philosophies are what drive both narratives. Amanda is a girl, awestruck by the beauty of a foreign country, a star-crossed lover in a heated sexual relationship with an Italian engineer. Suddenly, a murder occurs, and her every step is analyzed, her sexuality chastised, and her morals challenged. Next thing she knows, she’s sitting on trial for murder.
What AMANDA KNOX does so well is it never paints anyone completely innocent. McGinn and Blackhurst are not concerned with clearing Knox’s name of any guilt. Instead, this thriller paints every single individual, from a cocky Italian prosecutor to a blame-shifting British journalist, like ethically corrupt individuals. Not even Knox is left untouched here. Everyone is fervently, and appropriately, criticized for their behavior and the ensuing consequences. Knox’s cavalier behavior following the murder of her roommate is certainly brought into question, and the media’s push to turn this tragic incident into a national sensation is absolutely eviscerated. But what’s truly inspiring is how McGinn and Blackhurst frame this. Every individual interview is composed in the same, unbiased fashion. And so, everybody is left to defend themselves.
“Did she kill her? I don’t know. What I do know is that I am FLUSH WITH CASH!”
AMANDA KNOX is the closest thing to a definitive re-trial one could imagine. But not just for Knox. This is a trial against the media, the police, and Knox’s Italian boyfriend. It’s briskly cinematic, and its restraint is a commendation I can’t press enough. AMANDA KNOX could have easily forced itself to be a six-part mini-series for the casual Netflix binger. But instead it decided to take the high road. This is great filmmaking, a documentary that rarely bores and certainly hearkens back to true-crime classics, from Errol Morris’ THE THIN BLUE LINE to PARADISE LOST.