Sundance awards aside, this film brings added significance to the Dude Committee as it's probably the only documentary that covers the murder trial of a former Duke Chronicle editor. Suffice it to say, I do not anticipate that Kate Stroup will be showing up on Court TV anytime soon.
In any case, "covering" is the approprone term here, as this 8 episode (6 hours, as each episode covers about 45 minutes - equal to an hour minus commercials) exhaustively blankets Michael Peterson's life following the discovery of his dead wife Kathleen. The filmmaker is granted extraordinary access to preparations of the defense team, led by a charismatic David Rudolf, and the result is a stunning behind-the-scenes look at the preparations for a murder trial where no expense is spared. In the end, the viewer is left with many questions, and not the least of which is the amount of uncertainty in the meting of justice.
The initial episode and a half is somewhat slow to develop - but once the trial preparation starts, I was at the edge of my couch for the remainder of the film. With the caveat that selling folks on watching a 6 hour documentary is the tallest of tall tasks, I do highly recommend the Staircase if you're interested in any of the following: criminal intrigue, law, Durham, or an intense movie.