The most memorable image here is the lethal-injection gurney. With its crossbar for the outstretched arms of doomed prisoners, it resembles a padded crucifix -- a ghastly and inelegant parody of a symbol of Christian comfort.
Herzog is pursuing no agenda with Into the Abyss, despite his opposition to extreme judicial measures. He's seeking to answer the question of why people kill, especially in a situation such as this where the reason for the murders was so meaningless.
This is the abyss the film shows, the frightening arbitrariness of the death penalty. People are born into poverty and violence by chance, and their fates -- as crime victims or victims of the state -- are also functions of chance.
The overriding point of Into the Abyss, what keeps this sad, sorrowful film from becoming depressing and elevates it far above the usual chatter of liberal-conservative debate, is that there can be light on the other end of even the darkest of tunnels.