THE FBI THOUGHT THEY HAD HIM. IT WAS THE OTHER WAY AROUND.
During all those years when he was on the FBI Ten Most Wanted list, James “Whitey” Bulger turned into a mythical figure, but when he was finally caught in 2011 a trial could begin. This documentary, from the guy behind the Paradise Lost films, uses interviews and surveillance material from back in the day to tell the story of how Bulger became Boston’s most prominent gangster, protected by an unorthodox FBI operation. Packed with details from the complicated court case, the film still manages to illuminate just how corrupt the authorities were in dealing with “Whitey”. Bulger remains a mysterious presence throughout as all we see of him are black SUVs driving him between prison and the courthouse, but Joe Berlinger doesn’t forget that the relatives of his victims are still suffering.
2014-U.S. 107 min. Color. Produced by Joe Berlinger, Caroline Suh. Directed by Joe Berlinger.
Trivia: Originally screened at Sundance with a 129 min. running time. The story was dramatized in Black Mass (2015).
Last word: “[Not being able to record in the courtroom] put a burden on the film. Trial sequences are inherently dramatic, and there was a limit of how many re-creations and transcripts you could use. It forced the film to be told via a lot of talking head interviews. In fact, this is the most talking head heavy film I’ve ever done. We tried to make the courthouse a character by doing all those aerials, and also we tried to not do all of the interviews as sit down interviews but rather in the vehicles like riding along with people. It was kind of like the police ride along motif. It just felt like 30 years of history was converging on this one place so let’s make the courthouse a character and let’s make the journey to the courthouse part of the storytelling. Not brilliant, but that was my solution.” (Berlinger, We Got This Covered)