This Netflix True Crime Documentary Dives Deep Into A Disturbing Tale

Into The Deep

I have a true crime documentary recommendation for you today but I should first warn that this one is really upsetting. I’m talking about Into the Deep: The Submarine Murder Case. This Netflix original film gives viewers a front-row seat to watch the buildup to and fallout from a shocking crime that was being planned while the documentary project was being lensed. That makes this film (which began as something very different from what it became) an unprecedented look at one of the most shocking crimes in recent memory. The viewing experience was surreal and uncomfortable. But Into the Deep should still be seen by anyone brave enough to sit through it. 

Into the Deep follows Danish inventor, Peter Madsen, who constructed several submarines and a series of rockets. His fondness for manufacturing machinery began as a hobby and eventually became a full-time endeavor. Madsen’s exploits caught the attention of filmmaker Emma Sullivan, who agreed to chronicle the inventor’s creative process in a documentary. Little did she know, the scope of the doc would change dramatically after Madsen was accused of sexually assaulting and killing journalist Kim Wall, who was profiling him for Wired. Sullivan continued to chronicle the aftermath in the wake of the allegations brought against Madsen, capturing a firsthand look at a chilling crime that would garner international media attention. 

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Into the Deep is a rarity. This is a true crime doc that plays out as the events are transpiring, rather than reflecting on the misdeeds in retrospect. That distinction makes this film feel particularly raw. We get unfiltered, in-the-moment reactions from those who experienced the tragedy. But that rawness also translates to the audience. We are seeing people’s in-the-moment reactions as they learn what’s happened. There’s no time for anyone to gain their composure or reflect before responding. This is true crime reporting at its most unadulterated. And it’s a lot to take in.

Sullivan is able to peel back the level of separation that accompanies a documentary feature or series that profiles an event after the fact. That left me feeling this unshakable discomfort, knowing how close I was to pure evil in its natural habitat. It’s a different experience than seeing someone profiled after their capture. There’s an arrogance that isn’t usually present post-apprehension. We get a firsthand look at that and it’s quite distressing. 

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That lack of separation between the event and the reporting is especially noticeable as we follow those close to Madsen after the murder charges are filed. His team becomes visibly distraught, downtrodden, and listless. I can only imagine how heartbreaking it would be to find out someone that you put your full faith in isn’t the person you believed them to be.  

I can imagine how some of those close to him dismissed Madsen’s eccentricities as byproducts of a creative mind. Many brilliant people have harmless quirks. And it might be natural to assume as much of Madsen. Additionally, the disgraced inventor has a charisma likely to mask his inner darkness. That’s a large part of what makes him dangerous. He has been successful at cloaking his violent urges and was able to blend amongst the masses. Naturally, Madsen ruffled some feathers here and there. But people didn’t realize that he was actually dangerous until it was too late. 

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Some of the signs were there but many people just assumed the best of the inventor. One of the volunteers with whom Madsen worked is seen recounting a series of messages she exchanged with Madsen that she took as completely innocuous and playful at the time they were sent. But with news of Kim Wall’s murder, the communications take on a far more chilling context. He is (seemingly) teasing the volunteer about murdering her if she doesn’t pick up the pace on the assignment with which she is tasked. To think that Madsen may have considered her a potential target is chilling. If things had played out differently, that volunteer may not have been around to recount the exchange of messages. 

We further discover that the volunteer wasn’t the only person with whom Madsen used violent humor. But everyone around him took what he was saying as harmless. He is charismatic enough that people believed the best of him. But hearing the things he would say and do with added context gives an entirely different meaning to the statements people once wrote off as harmless.  

We ultimately learn that Madsen had nearly no formal training in engineering. But that didn’t stop him from pushing forward with his projects. In hindsight, that makes a lot of sense. It’s not uncommon for narcissists to overestimate their own abilities. And Madsen certainly fits the profile of a narcissist.   

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We get even more evidence of his pathology when he speaks of having always taken pleasure in outsmarting the authorities.  That eerily foreshadows how he would respond after being accused of Kim Wall’s murder. Rather than taking accountability, he tried to play it off as an accident. As the investigation continued, he would offer a number of differing explanations as to what happened to her, probably believing all along that he could maneuver his way out of trouble as he had many times prior. 

Once Madsen’s computer was examined, however, there was no chance of maneuvering out of anything. What was found within is horrifying enough that, I would rather abstain from going into any detail. I’ll just say that the contents paint a distressing picture and give a good idea of how calculated Madsen’s actions on that fateful day were. 

All in all, Into the Deep is a distressing affair but it should be seen because it’s an impressive feat of filmmaking and some of the most chilling true crime programming I’ve laid eyes on.  



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