MFR Rating: ★ ★ ★
Werner Herzog’s new documentary makes its agenda clear from the get go: he’s against the death penalty. The film however succeeds in not feeling preachy or too political and of course its subject matter is naturally incredibly emotive. I don’t think it’s possible to make a documentary about such a subject without rousing all sorts of emotions and of course you do get that. It has some really incredible moments, one which stuck with me in particular involved an interview with a former Texan executioner and hearing his thoughts was quite remarkable, along with the confessions of an absent father whose admittance of responsibility for his son’s predicament on death row is nothing short of tragic.
The film essentially focuses on one specific case involving Michael Perry facing the death penalty and his friend Jason Burkett serving a life sentence for three murders committed a decade ago. The film does seem to get a little bogged down in the specific of the case, which feels rather distracting from the larger picture. In the end it has its moments of real reverence but unfortunately as a piece it can feel rather flat, lacking some of the truly great, Herzogian spark and enlightenment.
Into the Abyss is out now in the UK and US. Running time 107 mins. Certificate 12a (UK).
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Review by David Rank