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The Atlanta Child Murders Reviews

Reviewed By: Brian J. Dillard

This first-rate television docudrama boats a varied and stellar cast, a sensational subject, and a crackerjack script by Abby Mann, writer of Judgement at Nuremberg and countless classic TV dramas. Morgan Freeman, Martin Sheen, Rip Torn, Jason Robards, Ruby Dee, and James Earl Jones are only the most recognizable names in a film that also includes fine work from future Matrix star Gloria Foster, Roots actress Lynne Moody, and a young Bill Paxton. Mann's script employs meticulous research and a definite point of view to explore not only the murders that panicked Atlanta from 1979 to 1982, but also the sociological backdrop to that era. Racism, integration, affirmative action, and the emergence of the African-American political elite all find their way into this dense film, which clocks in at more than four hours even when sheared of commercials. Yet, for all its scope and the weighty issues it addresses, The Atlanta Child Murders remains a gripping piece of entertainment that builds from police-procedural meticulousness to the courtroom denouement. The questions lingering over the eventual supposed resolution of the case have spawned plenty of subsequent literature and television footage, including the 2000 Showtime drama Who Killed Atlanta's Children? But, The Atlanta Child Murders served up a compelling dramatization of -- and inquiry into -- the case when the story was still fresh and the questions still pressing.