Critic Reviews



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Into the Abyss may be the saddest film Werner Herzog has ever made. It regards a group of miserable lives, and in finding a few faint glimmers of hope only underlines the sadness.
Into the Abyss, which bears the subtitle "A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life," reveals itself to be an outlandish, compassionate and, at times, improbably buoyant film about life's capacity for grief and horror and about how it bubbles on miraculously in the face of such things. It's the best thing Herzog's done in years.
Slant Magazine
Underlying the occasionally harrowing, consistently mournful tone is a philosophy that, more than being explicitly anti-capital punishment, puts both family ties and the social contract at the center of people's self-worth.
His film powerfully suggests that violent death of any kind, whether personal or state-mandated, transforms everyone in its vicinity.
The Hollywood Reporter
But above all it's a portrait of stunned grief, of the devastation families endure, whether through violence, accidents, illness or incarceration.
These days, true-crime docs are a dime a dozen, and yet, returning to the "In Cold Blood" analogy, Into the Abyss dares to plumb the dark hole in America's soul. Herzog's investigation may not work as an anti-death-penalty editorial, but its findings are undeniably profound.
Into the Abyss is too self-admiring of its own loose ends to come to the indictment that would put it in the company of "The Thin Blue Line," but these personalities stay in your head - which is the whole point.
Village Voice
An egalitarian study of crime and punishment in a small Southern town, Into the Abyss is also an unmistakably Herzogian inquiry into the lawlessness of the human soul.
Herzog's wrenching interviews with the victims' relatives, may not turn anyone against capital punishment, but they're gripping nonetheless. Incidentally, the spiritual inquiry Herzog aims for here has already been rendered onscreen, in Steve James and Peter Gilbert's powerful documentary "At the Death House Door" (2008).
Chicago Tribune
The film is a river of pain, weirdly funny in places, as are all of Herzog's filmic essays.

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