It was the biggest art heist in U.S. history, but you’ve probably never heard of it before.
Netflix is changing that with the new true-crime docuseries “This is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist,” which walks viewers through the investigation into the robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
The four-part series was a little slow to start, perhaps because it began with two of the most basic of the 5 W’s: Where and when?
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts.
1:24 a.m. Sunday, March 18, 1990.
The first episode takes viewers through the museum’s history. It goes into great detail about the founder, Isabella Stewart Gardner, and even takes a close look at the architecture of the building. It spends a considerable amount of time explaining the cultural significance of St. Patrick’s Day to the city of Boston and the traditional Sunday parade.
It honestly felt like something you’d watch in a high school history class. But have patience because you’re about to get into the goods: What?
Thirteen pieces of artwork worth an estimated $500 million were stolen.
In documentary fashion, the episode lists and shows each piece, including the artist’s name and the date of creation. Some notable pieces stolen include Rembrandt’s 1633 oil-on-canvas “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” and “The Concert” by Vermeer.
After the inventory listing, the real fun begins as the narrative shifts to the investigation: How?
Two thieves posing as Boston police officers knocked on the door of the museum, and a security guard buzzed them in. The story is told from several perspectives, but the most interesting to hear from here is the first-person account from the security guard himself, Richard Abath.
The series includes interviews with several other security guards, a security consultant, an art thief, a couple of witnesses, multiple reporters, the museum director and some FBI agents. There’s lots of unique evidence and strange details that will have you scratching your head and asking: Why?
No one quite knows, but the series walks viewers through several possible motives and scenarios. International currency? Collectors? Collateral?
If you’re a true-crime fan or you just love a good mystery, from the halfway point of the first episode all through the second, you’ll be invested as the series dives into the details of the case.
The last two installments of the limited series focus on the one question remaining: Who?
The timeline moves closer to the present-day as the narrative follows the ongoing investigation and continued search for the missing art. The third episode brings the most colorful of all the interviews, Donna Reissfelder. She’s a real character, and her commentary is unbeatable in terms of voice.
Each episode runs anywhere from 50 minutes to an hour. Some of the recreated video scenes are a little repetitive and unnecessarily dramatic, but the series includes real pictures and footage, as well.
Once you get past the foundation of the first episode, “This is a Robbery” draws you in with a gripping tale and a wide range of viewpoints and theories, ultimately leaving viewers to come to their own conclusions.