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Movie review: ‘Dinosaur 13’ digs into story of paleontologists vs. the government

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Courtesy photo An image of the paleontologists who in 1990 discovered the largest and most intact T. rex to date, the subject of the documentary "Dinosaur 13."

By Sean P. Means

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Aug 21 2014 03:37PM
Updated Aug 22, 2014 01:15PM

There’s a great story of fossils, felonies and federal overreach in the documentary "Dinosaur 13," and director Todd Miller digs out a sizable chunk of it.

The story begins with the discovery in 1990 of the largest intact Tyrannosaur rex specimen ever, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The group of for-profit paleontologists who unearth and work to preserve the fossil, named Sue, soon find themselves facing an FBI raid, a custody battle over whether the remains are federal property, and a massive grand-jury investigation.

Miller lets the main protagonists — starting with the lead paleontologist, Peter Larson — tell their own stories in straightforward interviews, augmented with subtle use of re-enactments and some gorgeous shots of the Black Hills. The film’s one weakness is that the criticism of the federal government (whose employees are underrepresented in the interviews), though heartfelt and understandable, gets a little repetitive.

movies@sltrib.com; www.sltrib.com/entertainment

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