Into The Abyss - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Into The Abyss Reviews

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½ December 21, 2013
Herzog wisely holds back on the 'Herzog' in this bleak and multi-faceted look at the death penalty.
December 16, 2013
Without taking sides, Werner Herzog's new documentary examines crime and punishment in the United States by following the story of Michael Perry and Jason Burketts killing of three people in order to steal thier vehicle, for which they were found guilty. One was sentenced to death row and the other recieved life. The film does not glorify or exploit any aspect of its subject matter. It uses intimate interviews and crime scene video to lay out all facts and feelings , from all sides.
From victims to criminals to executioner they all play a part on this canvas. A must see....
½ December 15, 2013
One of his best documentaries, and a beautiful film. I was completely engrossed from start to finish. Such strange, interesting people.
½ November 8, 2013
Fascinating but grim documentary about death row in Texas.
November 5, 2013
Here's a question: Is Herzog now officially the best doco maker in the world? He constructs his tales carefully and purposefully and this one is no different. He brings in characters really late again to pull the story in different directions, but leaves the viewer the space to adjust and change their minds on the issues at play. Herzog's interview techniques might rile some viewers, but I think he usually is spot on. Somehow he manages to give the interviewees exactly the right freedom to come out with the most telling of quotes, without allowing anybody to lose focus. The only gap in this particular movie is the omission of Perry's relatives. I assume they didn't want to be interviewed, but they would've been essential in illuminating his character and backstory. Otherwise a great film and a worthy contribution to the polemic on capital punishment.
October 25, 2013
Beautifully disturbing.
½ October 16, 2013
A fascinating & challenging documentary by master Werner Herzog (who brought us Grizzly Man a few years earlier)

A psychological study of 2 men on death row & the facts of the crime that lead them there, & it's not easy watching.

Filled with confronting facts & interviews this documentary digs deep & although in many places doesn't give answers it's interesting none the less. A relevant, honest & hard hitting film....very compelling.
October 10, 2013
Stunning and poignant.
Sometimes we promote a movie just by saying that its based on real life. But after looking at a person who was executed 8 days after the movie was shot knowing that he knew that he was going to die in 8 days and seeing his reaction to all of it. It was a terrific experience. In a way reminded me so much of my favorite director Ingmar Bergman cause it mirrored his way of moving into the troubled consciousness, the uncomfortable zone we always avoid, the perspectives and constructs we fail to see or sometimes choose to overlook in favor of more accessible philosophies.
½ September 19, 2013
take a look at the Michael perry website then re watch this
½ September 18, 2013
Amazing film, that really makes you think.
½ September 17, 2013
Unbelievably dumb. Herzog's simple-minded questions seem to make the people interviewed in the film feel sorry for Herzog's odd na´vetÚ.

So disappointing.
September 12, 2013
A haunting film about murder and the idea of death row and how ethical is it. It's got a chilling story with a chilling soundtrack. Video documentaries of police investigations of the house after the murders and the story of how it was done. It's a great documentary. It shows the horrors of murder but also shows the haunting idea of death row and what it's like. I was so interested from beginning to end. It was such a chilling experience. I never felt so shaken in fear and awe some people could kill and what was shown is truly unforgettable. Families victims being interviews are tragic and is so sad and tragic. It's so horrifying to hear the victims stories of how they figured out what had happened to their lost loved ones. It is tragic and gave me goosebumps. One of the most impacting documentaries I have seen in a long time.
½ September 11, 2013
Emotionally heart provoking documentary from Werner Herzog. Not the easiest of viewing, but pretty essential
September 10, 2013
A little too deep but decent overall.
August 3, 2013
This is a really interesting and well done movie looking at capital punishment. Its subjects are 2 convicted killers who murdered 3 people for a car. The film asks though they are guilty of these atrocious crimes, do they need to be murdered in turn. Very interesting stuff that is certainly thought-provoking. I always enjoy Werner Herzog's documentaries. This is a must watch!
August 2, 2013
Werner Herzog did a brilliant job telling this story. The film shows empathy and does it without judging the players. Herzog does a great job of interviewing subjects trying to rationalize their lives and trying to prove their innocence.
½ July 15, 2013
A haunting piece of work.
½ July 11, 2013
very powerful documentary
½ June 29, 2013
Doesn't really explore the morality of the death penalty at all, though it is very interesting.
June 28, 2013
Before watching this I honestly wondered why Herzog bothered to make it- this came from a larger project Herzog was working on called 'On Death Row' which had actually been my introduction into his work- I thought it was a very well-done series. Now, there were four episodes and neither of them involved the people in question here. This left me wondering why Herzog didn't simply make this story another episode instead of choosing this specific case to make a movie from. In honesty I didn't think that this case was as interesting as previous ones featured on the show. Once I began watching though it quickly became clear why this one became a film and the others did not.

Herzog's documentaries aren't usually about their topic but rather the subjects within them, specifically, the people within them. Grizzly Man for instance isn't really a nature film it is a character study of a man- this is just one example but it applies to the majority of Herzog's documentaries. Now there are exceptions, more typical-format documentaries if you will such as 'Wheel Of Time' which is, for the most part, about the topic from which it take its title. Herzog then has the third strain of documentaries that aren't documentaries at all, they are a strange breed of history and fictitious filmmaking- 'Death For Five Voices' for example.

This is important because I consider the 'On Death Row' series to be the second kind of documentary described above- stuck to the story with Herzog adding artistic touches as the icing on the cake. What became clear with this one though is that it does not share this.

'Into The Abyss' is the first type of Herzog documentary- this isn't really about the death sentence, it isn't really about the man being executed specifically either, in fact he doesn't feature in this very much at all. This is about people, people who have been affected by this one specific case ranging from those convicted to the family of the victims to people who just happened to know those involved in passing- it is a series of stories about a series of people all connected by this one case. That is deserving of a feature-length piece.

Seeing it like that, this was a strong film- there's much emotion and some truly devastating stories from, what seems like relatively normal people, who are involved in this, so uncommon situation. We never learn much about Michael Perry other than that he maintained his innocence. We do however learn about the daughter of one of Perry's victims and her story is as heart breaking as it gets. We speak with so many people from so many areas in this- one is destined to die by lethal injection, one is destined to remain in jail forever, one could be released in their mid-60s, one has to live on without their brother, one has to live on without several members of their family, one is in the stages of creating a family and one is at the start of a new life. Are all these people heading into the abyss? I don't think so- I think some have already been and maybe are still in it and some have even overcome it. It is truly fascinating and devastating getting so close to these people with Herzog's unforgiving camera capturing their every move- from that perspective it is some of Herzog's best documentary-work.

there are some problems though- it is quite clear that this was not a planned feature-length piece- at times it feels very similar to the rather clear-cut approach of the TV series and when it concentrates on the people involved it feels like it is straying from its course. This looks like a fairly simple 'death row documentary' of which there are many but it isn't and that creates a strange viewing experience- we are shown details of the murders, introduced to the people responsible but then we are moved to a man who learned to read late in his life or to a former bartender who has had to block out her work experiences due to what she witnessed. It feels disorganised in a way that Grizzly Man, which has a similar split going on, does not.

With these kinds of films usually comes a political message to boot and sure Herzog states his views here but only in passing- they are more prevalent in the TV series and here they just tend to arise from discussion during interviews. This isn't really a damning conviction of the system, Herzog only needs a few sentences to criticise the system, this is, like most of his work, a story with many interesting characters that just happens to be true. Herzog did a piece on child soldiers after all and he managed to make that fairly un political- if you want something that is dominant in its critique then look elsewhere but if you want something that is dominant through human communication, which is essentially what a camera is all about, then this may just be for you.

It isn't nearly as accessible as you'd expect in this case and Herzog's refusal to make this about himself may be out of the average documentary viewer's comfort zone but this should appeal to Herzog fans though I don't recommend it as an introductory piece due to its uncertain structure.
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