Netflix’s original documentary series, Making a Murderer, has earned itself a whopping 6 Emmy nominations: which include Outstanding Documentary, Outstanding Directing in a Documentary, Outstanding Writing for a Non-Fiction Program, and Outstanding Editing for a Non-Fiction Program. If that doesn’t spark your interest, it should, at the very least, tell you that this is an outstandingly made Documentary Film.
Believe it or not, I’m actually a huge fan of documentaries. In fact, one of my many favorite films of all time is a documentary (or “Film Essay” if you want to be entirely accurate) written and directed by non other than the great Orson Welles called F for Fake. Tony, the guy that does the “Every Frame a Painting” channel on YouTube that I talk about all the time, also has a man-crush on Orson Welles.
While Making a Murderer may not have the artsy flair that Welles’ film does, its story is interesting enough on its own to hold an audience down for 10 episodes that span almost an hour each. The documentary follows the story of a man named Steven Avery [Warning: if you wish to avoid spoilers, which I would highly recommend, DO NOT Google his name or anything like that], who gained infamy in Wisconsin due to his many encounters with local law enforcement. In this review, I’m going to due everything I can to avoid spoilers, so that’s all the information you’ll get out of me.
NOTE: There are no “real” actors in documentary films, so there will not be an Acting category for this review.
If you can make it through the first episode without falling asleep, then you’re going to become quickly addicted to this show. As I watched the first episode, I found myself thinking, “It’s sad that I’ve heard this story so many times before, but this is nothing new.” Boy, was I proven wrong. I spent the last two minutes of episode one with my jaw on the floor, and quickly began the next episode as soon as the credits started rolling.
I like to make fun of people who interact with their TV whenever they watch a film or show that they really get into. But this time, I was the one yelling at my TV because of the things that were happening in this story.
Steven Avery’s story floored me. Only a few events in recent history and two other films have made me feel the way that Making a Murderer made me feel. It’s extremely compelling, astonishing, and even rage-inducing. I’ll do my best not to spoil anything when I say this; but if you consider yourself to be someone that still puts a lot of faith in our law enforcement’s ability to protect its own citizens, and the justice system’s ability to actually serve justice, then you need to watch this film.
While a lot of the series is composed of older news footage and video recordings, the direction and editing is still really well handled throughout the film. It may be odd to hear that a documentary has really good direction and editing, but it is actually still a very important aspect of film making (here is another link to Tony’s video on F for Fake). Documentaries have an astounding amount of footage, and especially a lot of audio bites, to use at their disposal. They have to know the appropriate time to use what they have, and that rarely means that they just put everything in chronological order.
If the editing was not as well done as it is in this series, then it probably would have failed multiple times to invoke the emotions that it tries to provoke.
For the majority of the film, the score is a lamenting violin mixed with an undertone of angry western acoustic guitar. It works excellently, especially for the opening theme.
But occasionally, you’ll hear retro 80’s synthesizers that definitely sound out of place for the rest of the series’ score.
X-Factor: 6/10, why now? [Major Spoiler!]
Before you read this part of my review, I’d encourage you to go and watch the series first.
Any piece of non-fiction needs to have closure, especially if it’s historical in nature. Making a Murderer does not have closure, because both Steven Avery and his nephew are in prison for their crimes, and it’s going to take a miracle for them to get out now. I suspect that this means there will be a second part to the series sometime in the future, but that could literally be twenty years from now, who knows? My complaint is that the story is not finished, and this series is really the only source of media covering the subject anymore, so why release the film now before the story is complete and seemingly has no hope? In the documentary series, Paradise Lost, the filmmakers released their films at certain milestones in the story (the first after the initial sentencing, the second after the initial appeals, and the third after their release from prison). Making a Murderer, in its current state, does not appear to follow this trend. It may be that they released it now hoping that the story does not go away or die down, but I’m not going to pretend to get in the filmmakers’ heads.
Making a Murderer is just one of many crime documentaries that are currently available to stream on Netflix. I would highly recommend that you give it a watch, and if you enjoy it, to also watch (these are on Netflix) The Imposter, The Two Escobars, The Fear of 13, and West of Memphis and 3.5 Mintues, 10 Bullets if you can find these (these two are not on Netflix, unfortunately).