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

Published August 22, 2014 2:11 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

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.

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'Dinosaur 13'

Opens Friday, Aug. 22, at the Tower Theatre; rated PG for mild thematic elements, language and brief smoking; 95 minutes.