At first glance, it seemed odd that Netflix picked up both a documentary and film on the same case, but on second thoughts, it’s such an obvious decision – folks love true-crime stories, so why not cash in on a shocking serial-killer story in all possible ways. Cover all sorts of fans. And clearly the strategy is working, I ended up watching both after all. Although, having seen the film version (‘The Good Nurse’ starring Eddy Redmayne) already, I streamed the documentary merely out of curiosity and didn’t think it would be interesting enough, especially because a lot of the case details were already covered in the movie.
Titled ‘Capturing the Killer Nurse’, the 2022 documentary is about Charles Cullen, an American nurse who admitted to killing over two dozen patients and is suspected to have murdered hundreds. Directed by Tim Travers Hawkins, the documentary features interviews with detectives who worked on the case, nurses who worked with Cullen, relatives of the victims and chilling archival footage of the killer himself. Amy Loughren, the nurse who made nabbing Cullen possible, also gives a detailed account of her friendship with the murderer and how she aided the investigators. Loughren’s co-operation with authorities not just led to a serial-killer’s arrest in 2003, but also exposed a corrupt commercial healthcare establishment which prioritized PR over patients.
Ironically, the documentary turned out to be a lot more gripping than the film on Cullen, not only because it deals with facts and goes into more details, but it also gets a lot of other elements of the visual medium right. ‘Capturing the Killer Nurse’ is shot better, has grittier background music, and the interviews with those involved or affected by the case packed in more emotion. While it’s common practice for movie-makers to take creative liberties, change facts to make their story more sensational and emotional, ‘The Good Nurse’ was much mellower and failed to capture the scale of criminal corruption in the healthcare system and its tragic consequences the way the documentary does.
At the end, the documentary includes footage from the real life trial, where bereaved families talk about losing their loved ones due to someone who was supposed to protect them. It serves as a powerful closure to this factual recollection of the chilling Cullen murders.
It’s a 7.5/10 from me.
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