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You Should Be Watching: ‘Wormwood’

If “The Shape of Water” piqued your interest in Cold War-era stories of governmental misdeeds and cover-ups, Netflix’s “Wormwood” is here for you. Based on fact and combining interviews and re-creations featuring well-known character actors, this series from documentary filmmaker Errol Morris is an original from start to finish.

Title: “Wormwood”

Year it began: 2017

Where it can be seen: Netflix

Typical episode length: 41-48 minutes

Number of episodes: 6

Who’s in it: Errol Morris (interviewer), Peter Sarsgaard, Molly Parker, Tim Blake Nelson, Bob Balaban

Brief plot description: Morris explores the mysterious death of a U.S. scientist entangled in a secret Cold War program known as MK-Ultra in a six-part series blending interviews and dramatic re-creations.

Peter Sarsgaard stars in the real-life story "Wormwood." (Photo by Zach Dilgard/Netflix)

Why it’s worth watching: Morris belongs on any list of the finest living documentary filmmakers. From acknowledged classics like “Gates of Heaven” and “The Thin Blue Line” to fascinating curiosities like “Mr. Death” and “The Fog of War,” Morris has made a career out of exploring true stories that seem almost unbelievable. “Wormwood” certainly fits.

This six-part Netflix series about the mysterious death of CIA biochemist Frank Olson combines Morris’s usual style — interviews in which the subject speaks directly into the camera — with re-creations starring the likes of Peter Sarsgaard and Tim Blake Nelson. The result is extraordinarily involving. And thanks to subjects like Olson’s son, Eric, it is also extraordinarily moving. The truths uncovered by Morris involve the CIA mind-control program known as MKUltra, and secrets that were buried for decades. Like all of the filmmaker’s work, “Wormwood” is a haunting — and unforgettable — experience.

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