Wormwood (2017) Woulda Been a Better Movie
Directed by master documentarian Errol Morris, this Netflix series is absolutely fascinating yet bogged down by its format. It’s 6 episodes, 1 hour each, telling the true story of a mysterious death.
This would’ve been a brilliant / iconic 2-hour movie. Instead, it’s a bold experiment with mixed results.
First, what’s it about? Real quick — Wormwood tells the story of a man who “fell or jumped” out of a 13 story window in 1953. The documentary is told from the point-of-view of his son, who’s now an elder man.
It describes how he first learned about his father’s death, and the subsequent realizations / discoveries he’s made in the many decades since then.
It gets psychedelic very fast. The story goes from somebody “falling or jumping” out a New York City hotel window; to the CIA illegally drugging this man (who was an army scientist) — and then he just freaked out & jumped out the window; to the federal government ordering the assassination of this scientist.
The biggest flaw of the series is the rhythm. And that’s a pretty big one.
How can a story so fascinating be — let’s just say it — boring sometimes?
It’s an aesthetic crime. This movie should be as heart racing as the situation. The slow burn diminishes the effect here. It diminishes the entire experience. It can only best be enjoyed analytically… which is anti-aesthetic. There’s flourishes of great spectacle, too. Which only punctuates what could’ve been.
If you’re expecting a total experience along the lines of Fast, Cheap, & Out of Control (one of my favorite movies of all time), it ain’t here chief. But if you want to drown out 6 hours with brilliant psychedelia & don’t mind some of it drones on at a slower pace (makes good background fodder, some of this show)… then check out Wormwood. Or, most strangely, if you just want to learn about the official underground assassination program of the United States, then yes! Definitely definitely check out Wormwood!