As a crisp, straightforward digest of a lurid true-crime story that sprawled over 10 years, the Netflix documentary “Amanda Knox” deserves credit for concision.
This swift, densely economical film by Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn may seem redundant to those who hung on every word of the case involving the title character, an American college student who was convicted of killing her British roommate while the two were exchange students in Italy in 2007.
But even those familiar with Knox’s story are likely to come away from “Amanda Knox” with a deeper understanding of the young woman who became known as “Foxy Knoxy,” and who was accused of everything from drug-fueled orgies to coldblooded murder. Nearly a decade later, clear-eyed and reflective, she makes a compelling spokeswoman for the chaos that ensues when institutions of criminal justice and journalism favor emotion over facts.
Aside from the present-day interviews with the subject – now living in seeming normalcy in Seattle – “Amanda Knox” doesn’t cover that much new ground. Revisiting the horrible events of Nov. 2, 2007, the film reviews how Knox arrived in Italy as an optimistic 20-year-old; how she met her roommate Meredith Kercher and boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito; how she and Sollecito discovered the crime scene; and, in part because they were “inappropriately” kissing and hugging each other in front of police, how they came to be accused of stabbing Kercher to death with a kitchen knife.
What is new in “Amanda Knox” is the grisly footage of the bloody floors and walls of Kercher’s room, as well as of Kercher’s foot peeking out from under a blanket. Viewers also meet some principals in the story who emerge as figures so perfect for their roles that they might have been plucked from Central Casting: Guiliano Mignini, the Italian prosecutor who derives professional inspiration from detective novels and Sherlock Holmes; and Nick Pisa, a bottom-feeding British reporter who compares the buzz derived from his suggestive front-page articles about Knox to having sex.
Part Camus, part Kafka, “Amanda Knox” interrogates issues that other, more ambitious documentaries have explored in recent years, from the seemingly insatiable media hunger for “bad girls” in “Amy” to the disastrous police and legal procedures of “O.J.: Made in America.” And the filmmakers miss an opportunity to have Knox narrate those supposedly damning images of her embracing Sollecito, so viewers can hear firsthand what she was thinking then, and how she feels about it now.
Still, this is an engrossing, valuable cautionary tale that is particularly timely when the line between collective projection and reality seems more fragile – and more consequential – than ever.