Story: Gilberto Valle would spend a lot of his time online, in chat rooms about all kinds of topics, some darker than others. He would connect with other users and because of the perceived anonymity, Valle would open up and share things he would likely never tell anyone in real life. Valle, who worked as a police officer in his professional life, would sink deeper and deeper into dark chatrooms, which slowly consumed his waking hours. Soon even at work, he would be obsessed with the chats and even use time on the clock to explore the conversations, so to say he was in deep would be an understatement. But when he started to discuss fantasies that veered into violence and even cannibalism, things really started getting out of control. Soon he would face criminal charges, when his fantasies seemed on the brink of becoming a reality. At what point does a fantasy become a crime and did Valle intend to carry out his dark desires, or was he just expressing a fantasy he never intended to realize?
Entertainment Value: This true crime documentary brings an interesting concept to the table, as it explores whether or not fantasies or desires expressed online could be considered crimes, even if not carried out. Thought Crimes seems to let the facts speak for themselves and reserves judgment for the viewer, which makes sense, as this is by no means an easy situation, even if you have a strong belief as to the legal aspect. So whether or not you think Valle’s actions were criminal in nature, there are deeper issues at work, such as how potential escalation might have played out. And Thought Crimes is able to navigate those questions well, allowing Valle ample time to make a case for himself, while also looking at his actions from other perspectives. I think having Valle’s actual chat messages shown in depth really lets the viewer inside his mind, since we have his word, but also his online actions to go by, which can be eye opening at times.
The presentation is polished, with a well produced look and feel, which I think makes it easier to lose yourself in the experience. Of course, this kind of story would likely hold attention regardless, but a well put together production design elevates the experience, at least in my opinion. I wouldn’t have minded a few quick diversions into similar cases or situations, since there are other high profile cannibal cases out there. This is mainly because the focus here is no narrow, which works since the case is so unusual, but a little tangent here and there wouldn’t have been unwelcome. The pace is on point however, so things never get bogged down and the case has plenty to explore, so there’s minimal filler or segments that seem unnecessary. I found Thought Crimes to be interesting and well made, so I would recommend it to fans of true crime or documentaries in general.