The Staircase

"Extraordinary"

The Staircase Review


Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, there are more than one case involving murdering men named Peterson. Scott and Laci were preceded by another Peterson surname, as Durham, NC writer Mike Peterson, who claims his wife slipped on the stairs and hit her head. The prosecution says he beat her to death -- and the massive head trauma and the wild amount of blood she is found in seems to indicate this is no ordinary fall.

Director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade somehow gained complete and immediate access to the Peterson defense, following the trial every step of the way, starting with Peterson's arraignment. This six-hour, eight-part miniseries is now airing on the Sundance Channel.

What begins as an obvious accident quickly turns into a complicated mess. As the episodes progress, Peterson's story gets murkier and murkier, twisting our impression of Peterson's guilt back and forth, back and forth. At the end of episode one, Peterson is set up as clearly innocent. At the beginning of episode two, it's revealed that he is bisexual and has had numerous gay affairs during his marriage. By the end of the episode, we find out that Peterson has written several scathing editorials about the district attorney and his inability to fight crime, and could this case against Peterson be payback? And we've got six more episodes to go.

De Lestrade is best known for another legal documentary, Murder on a Sunday Morning, which has a very similar feel to this film, but The Staircase is miles away an improvement in production and technical quality. Once again, the real story isn't the gory details of Peterson's tawdry private life but rather his insight into the real way criminal justice works -- with intricate jury analysis, trial runs of testimony in front of focus groups (which is then tweaked and tweaked again), and so much legal craziness that you'll soon agree the whole system is totally out of whack. It's also devastatingly insightful in showing how emotion, prejudice, and mass hysteria can sway not only your opinion, but your memory as well. The final episode contains enough horror and shock to send chills down your spine: It's got the feel of a taut legal drama, almost making you forget that this is not just a true story, it's a documentary.

Now, do we need six hours of this to make an impact? No, and The Staircase often feels like it's too self-conscious and simply too much, period. But is it a powerful and highly recommended work? Absolutely.

Now on DVD, the film includes a 2004 interview with Peterson -- explaining the aftermath -- plus insights from de Lestrade.

Aka Soupçons.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 94 mins

In Theaters: Sunday 12th April 1998

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer:

Starring: as Himself, as Herself

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The kill-or-die scenario that this movie hinges on isn't something new; it's been used in...

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

With the more dumbed-down title Fast & Furious 8 outside of North America, this overcrowded...

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

British writer-director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) is an expert at digging beneath the...

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

Julian Barnes' Booker Prize-winning novel is adapted into a remarkably intelligent, gently involving film anchored...

The Boss Baby Movie Review

The Boss Baby Movie Review

There isn't a lot of subtlety in this madcap animated comedy, which is more aimed...

Advertisement
City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

After the latest incarnation of Dredd, director Pete Travis shifts gears drastically for this complex...

Going in Style Movie Review

Going in Style Movie Review

This is only technically a remake of the iconic 1979 film starring movie icons George...

Graduation Movie Review

Graduation Movie Review

Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) recounts another staggeringly detailed...

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

This sci-fi thriller is so visually stunning that it deserves to be mentioned in the...

Free Fire Movie Review

Free Fire Movie Review

Basically a 90-minute shoot-out, there isn't a lot to this movie. British filmmaker Ben Wheatley...

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.