Kris Tapley at In Contention calls Werner Herzog’s new documentary “a crucial viewing experience.”
In short, the film is a penetrating, comprehensive look at the issue of capital punishment by way of studying the circumstances and prominent figures in the case of Michael Perry and Jason Burkett, two Texas youths who were accused of a triple homicide in 2001…
Whatever your position on capital punishment, the film is necessary, plain and simple. If you believe in it, you need to spend the time Herzog does with the family and friends of the accused, pealing back the layers of judgment and digging to the root of his thesis: all life is precious. If you don’t believe in it, you need to witness the pain of the victims’ families, as Herzog conveys it, and the cold brutality of the more sterile portions dedicated to forensics and consideration of the crimes. It isn’t for the purpose of swaying opinion, I feel, so much as the purpose of educating whatever opinion you might have.
…Herzog’s film is a remarkably balanced portrait (those who support the death penalty may even come away thinking he’s made their case), even if his admission at the top clues the audience in to his leanings here and there. But most importantly, it’s a non-judgmental portrait. His goal is to reveal the circumstances of all involved, not just the chilly facts as documented in a court setting. The world is gray.
…I happen to believe in capital punishment, situationally, but I’m not interested in debating the politics of that in this space. I just think it’s worth it to give my perspective. The point is I found this film incredibly poignant, the best of the festival for me so far, and absolutely crucial viewing for anyone who thinks he or she has an opinion on the matter. It simply isn’t right to have that opinion safely, from a distance. The stakes are too high.