INTO THE ABYSS
(directed by Werner Herzog, 2011)
****+ (out of 5)
> Warner Herzog cements his reputation as one of the best documentary filmmakers working today, with this tragic (and tragically overlooked) examination of the death penalty, in this barbaric nation of ours.
. Wisely avoiding cryptic references to blind albino alligators (as in CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS), Herzog manages to stay out of his own way in this powerful outing- choosing to remain entirely off-camera in order to avoid inserting his big personality into the story. And what a story! As an “outsider” to American culture, German filmmaker Warner Herzog is exactly the right fish-out-of-water to hold an unjaundiced mirror up to our national bloodlust for revenge. Scrupulously careful to show both sides of this charged, emotional debate- despite making his feelings on the matter known early on, Herzog delves deeply into the heinous crime that elicited the death penalty question he wanted to examine. The great director provides vivid, unforgettable portrayals of those whose lives were shattered by this senseless crime, as well as giving equal time to folks like the former Texas executioner, who was forever-changed by his role in the murder of his only female death row prisoner. (Yes, the death penalty IS murder. It’s merely “legal” murder.)
. The opening interview brilliantly sets the speaker up as a Bible-thumping death penalty supporter, but the emotional jolt that ends the interview has us feeling ashamed of our rush to judgment. We were so damn sure we had this guy pegged, and we are so damn wrong.
. No matter where you are (or think you are) in this passionately divisive issue, see this superb film!
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