REVIEW: Into the Deep: The Submarine Murder Case

 On August 11, Danish engineer Peter Madsen was arrested after his homemade submarine sunk and the whereabouts of his passenger from the previous day, journalist Kim Wall, was unknown.  Madsen claimed that he had dropped her off onshore on the 10th before technical issues caused the submarine to sink, but there was no proof of that.  The case became international news, as Madsen's version of the events kept changing.  It was a grim tale, and it was playing out like a Hollywood movie.

When I saw Into the Deep: The Submarine Murder Case pop up on Netflix, I was instantly curious and watched it.  The opening moments of the documentary showed associates of Madsen hearing about the sinking of the submarine and the marine rescue of Madsen.  Immediately I hit pause to check to see if this wasn't a documentary but a scripted film to appear as one.  There was no way that cameras just happened to be present when this story emerged.  As crazy as it was, indeed there was a documentary being made about Madsen exactly when this all happened.

Australian director Emma Sullivan had been filming a documentary on Madsen and his intention to be the first amateur astronaut as he and his team of interns and volunteers were building their own rockets and launch pad.  Into the Deep uses footage from before the incident as well as after, engaging those within Madsen's sphere to tell a riveting story as we are brought further and further both into the case as well as the true nature of Madsen.

While this is a case of being at the right place at the right time, Sullivan shows incredible skill in how she continues after this major change in her coverage.  I can imagine that a lot of other filmmakers would really double down on the unravelling investigation, but that's not what Sullivan does.  She stays put, and keeps the camera on the people she had already been filming.  There aren't interviews with police or prosecutors, and the news updates on the case are filmed as her subjects are either reading about them or watching news videos.

What happens through this is we get an incredibly unique type of documentary, an approach that I cannot recall ever having seen before.  With the camera staying on the exact people she was filming prior to this incident we see the voyage of human reaction that takes place when someone who we respect is alleged to have done something truly horrific.  At first, the crew that worked with Madsen on his projects don't know how to deal with the events and want to believe that he couldn't be guilty of killing someone.  As time passes and details emerge, the audience is witness to the emotional devastation that takes place when good people begin to understand that someone close to them is a brutal monster.

Sullivan's awareness to not change her general approach she had initially had for the documentary is brilliant, and is really what makes Into the Deep stand out.  There is no shortage of true crime material to watch, and I would say that about ninety five percent of it is indistinguishable from a formatting perspective.  Rarely is there an actual new perspective shown, and that freshness pumps intrigue and intensity into the documentary.

Into the Deep is masterfully edited to drive the narrative along at a pace that never lags.  It immerses the viewer in the effects this story had on those who had their world's shaken and destroyed when they learn that a person who was viewed as a friend, father figure, and mentor was a monster walking amongst them.

The way this story played out at the time was compelling news, a drama that became more mysterious and dark as days and weeks passed by.  The approach Sullivan takes not only puts us right in the middle of the unfolding story, but adds a human element that can easily be overlooked in true crime productions.  It is as unique as it is masterfully assembled, and a documentary that I fear will just fall through the cracks that Netflix itself creates by absolutely flooding its platform with 'content.'  This is one to watch.

Rating - 4 out of 4 stars