3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets
Directed by Marc Silver
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving November 2012, four boys in a red SUV pull into a gas station after spending time at the mall buying sneakers and talking to girls. With music blaring, one boy exits the car and enters the store, a quick stop for a soda and a pack of gum. A man and a woman pull up next to the boys in the station, making a stop for a bottle of wine. The woman enters the store and an argument breaks out when the driver of the second car asks the boys to turn the music down. 3½ minutes and ten bullets later, one of the boys is dead. 3½ MINUTES dissects the aftermath of this fatal encounter.
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★★★½ review by Shaun Munro on Letterboxd
Mark Silver (Who is Dayani Cristal?) digs deep into the contentious legal soup surrounding the 2012 shooting death of black 17-year-old student Jordan Davis by white 45-year-old Michael Dunn and Dunn's subsequent trial, delivering a fundamentally dry doc which nevertheless succeeds on the fascinating basis of the conflicting legal concepts it wrestles with.
Those pining for a glossy, visually dynamic documentary film had best look elsewhere, because Silver's pic eagerly immerses itself in procedural courtroom footage, often evoking an unavoidably dull C-SPAN aesthetic. However, it seems somewhat unfair to flatly criticise the film for this when the legal debates within the film are so interesting.
The raucous over what constitutes "justifiable homicide" has raged on for years, complicated by America's controversial "Stand-your-ground" law, which is given a rightful (if not overly thorough) dissection here. Even so, audiences are likely to find themselves conflicted over who was right for much of the film's run-time, and as such Silver needs no flashy stylistic bells and whistles to bolster his work.
Race is unavoidably mentioned in the case, especially proximate as it is to the recent Zimmerman trial, though somewhat refreshingly, the focus is more on the potentially faulty legal doctrines in play, even if the film surprisingly doesn't make an overly impassioned plea for social change at its climax.
Eyewitness testimony so often proves to be flimsy evidence, and compellingly helps make an even bigger mess of this scenario, combined with an avalanche of hypocrisies on both sides and frustratingly adversarial lawyers blatantly badgering witnesses on both sides. However, it's all thoroughly outdone by the heartbreaking testimonies of Jordan's parents, the unequivocal victims left to pick up the pieces.
Even as a third-act twist rears its head, audiences may remain unsure of the verdict until it's doled out; was Dunn wrong, or was he acting correctly in the name of a law that needs desperate reform? Though Silver could certainly have taken a more forthright and didactic approach to the social issue he confronts, the restraint is itself admirable and respectable, painting a tragic picture of life lost for reasons which, whatever you believe, were undeniably unnecessary.
Likely to appeal more to law majors than purveyors of social justice, 3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets is more emotionally distant than many mainstream audiences might prefer, but its clinical approach has its own benefits also.
★★★½ review by Joel Mayward on Letterboxd
The moment where the murderer's fiancee, shaking and in tears, testifies on the stand that he didn't say something he claimed he said...it's a powerful moment where truth prevails. She's sealed the fate of her lover, but she's also stood with justice.
This film is the perfect companion to another great 2015 documentary, THE ARMOR OF LIGHT, which features Jordan Davis's case from a different angle.
★★★½ review by Julius Kassendorf on Letterboxd
A courtroom documentary about the Florida trial where Michael Dunn shot four unarmed black teenagers, killing Jordan Davis, in a red SUV over their playing loud music. The majority of the film is taken by a rotating pattern of courtroom footage, news analysis, Conservative radio call ins and personal reflection from Jordan's parents.
It's fascinating stuff in a few ways. Watching a multiple day trial gets scrunched down to under two hours and getting feedback from the news for how they summarized the news for 30 second sound bites, plus weird esoteric vignettes like Jordan's dad going swimming. It's a strange assembly but it works.
★★★★ review by Jason Alley on Letterboxd
A riveting, often infuriating documentary about the murder of Jordan Davis, the unarmed black teenager who was murdered in a gas station parking lot after getting in an argument with 45-year-old white man Michael Dunn over loud music. Dunn would later claim self-defense in a way that recalled the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case, but his increasingly unconvincing, shifting stories gradually unravel themselves quite pathetically.
Focusing mostly on the ensuing trial and media firestorm that erupted around the case, the filmmaking here is relatively plain but the subject matter is as gripping and suspenseful as any good courtroom drama.
★★★½ review by Mike D'Angelo on Letterboxd
The Dissolve review. Refreshingly artful as advocacy docs go, but it's mostly the expertly edited courtroom footage (over half the total running time, I'd estimate) that makes this worthwhile.
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