Netflix Launch Criticism – Film Plus Criticism – Online Magazine for Film, Film & Television

The next entry in Netflix’s arsenal of true crime documentaries is The Anthrax Attacks. So far the documentary has been released a bit under the radar and has been overshadowed by other new releases, much like the “anthrax attacks” that may have been overshadowed by the later September 11, 2001 attacks. In the fall of 2001, just weeks after the terrorist attacks, while the government was still cleaning up and the American people were just trying to get back to everyday life, a series of mysterious illnesses and deaths sparked renewed concern. Anthrax, also known as anthrax in Germany, is an infectious disease caused by special bacteria. In September and October 2001, an unknown source sent a total of seven letters containing anthrax. The messages are intended for politicians and government agencies. Five people die after coming into contact with the pathogens, including two postal employees. And so the FBI begins one of the most comprehensive investigations ever to find those responsible. In the course of the investigation, investigators met with American scientist Bruce Edwards-Evins, who is considered an expert on anthrax and works at the US Army Medical Research Facility for Infectious Diseases, also USAMRIID. As the FBI presses for the anthrax attacks case to finally be resolved, Ivins becomes a growing target.

by Lena Wasserburger

It’s a case many true crime documentaries love to capture. Unexplainable events, the FBI and the authorities under pressure, the suspect raises some questions and finally the ending that leaves everyone more open. In many ways, Anthrax Attacks does not differ from the mass of true crime documentaries and fits seamlessly into the growing real world of crime on Netflix. However, “anthrax attacks” are trying to take a different path, at least in part, when it comes to treatment. While it is not uncommon for documentaries to reenact scenes with actors and thus have the qualities of a feature film, The Anthrax Attacks makes these scenes an important focal point. Clark Gregg (Marvel’s Agents of the Shield) embodies Dr. Bruce Ivins and allows a deeper look into the psyche of the man who, at least according to the FBI, was behind the attacks. In several scenes, Greg addresses the audience directly as Ivins recites monologues verbatim from emails that Ivins himself wrote, detailing his dealings with himself and his suffering. Because Ivins had enormous psychological problems. It is these scenes that captivate and make the documentary really exciting.

Initially, the film has some problems at this level and it takes some time for the documentation to speed up or until the actual starting point of the investigation is determined. The film attempts to deconstruct the investigations, which were only finally announced closed in 2010, in an easy-to-understand manner, which turned out to be very difficult given the scale of the case. Thus, the documentary is not only devoted to the question of who is responsible for the “anthrax attacks”, but also takes a closer look at the actions of the FBI, that is, how they deal with suspects. It is a subtle way of criticizing the authorities, whose urge to find the perpetrators and declare the case resolved sometimes seems greater than the need to reveal the truth and protect the population from harm.


Attempting to make the documentary more exciting with scenes in which Clark Gregg breaks the fourth wall also succeeds Bruce Ivins, but “Anthrax Attacks” is only of modest quality compared to other true crime documentaries on Netflix. That could be said about the movie, however.


Rating: 7 out of 10.


Image: (c) Netflix

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