“Angel of Death”: the true story of Charles Cullen, the nurse who inspired the film | Eddie Redmayne | SKIP-INTRO

October 26 Netflix premiere”Angel of death,” a film based on the life and crimes of Charles Cullen, a nurse who killed dozens of patients he cared for over a decade while working in various American hospitals between the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Based on the book of the same name by journalist Charles Graeber and directed by Tobias Lindholm, the film focuses on the true story of how a nurse Amy Loughren (Jessica Chastain)helped stop his colleague’s heinous actions Charles Cullen (Eddie Redmayne).

Eddie Redmayne in a scene from
Eddie Redmayne in a scene from “Angel of Death”.

What does the synopsis tell us?

Amy, a compassionate nurse and single mother with a serious heart condition, is reaching her physical and emotional limits due to the difficult and demanding night shifts at her intensive care job. But he soon gets help from Charlie, a considerate and empathetic nurse who joins his unit. Sharing long nights in the hospital, the two develop a strong friendship and for the first time in years, Amy has faith in herself and her daughter’s future. However, after a series of mysterious patient deaths sparks an investigation that points to Charlie as the prime suspect, Amy is forced to risk her life and the safety of her children to uncover the truth.

Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain, in a scene from
Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain, in a scene from “Angel of Death”.

Who was Charles Cullen?

Charles Cullen was born in New Jersey in 1960 and was one of eight children. His father died before Cullen’s first birthday and that would be a huge blow to his life. A victim of bullying during his student days, Cullen had his first suicide attempt at the age of 9. Later, while he was still a teenager, his mother was killed in a car accident in which his sister was driving.

Charles Cullen, in prison.
Charles Cullen, in prison. / Photo: AP

After this new traumatic experience, Cullen dropped out of school and enlisted in the US Army in 1978, successfully passing psychological tests. A little later, his mental instability surfaced. After several suicide attempts, he was discharged in March 1984 due to mental problems.

Three years later, in 1987, Cullen graduated from nursing school, married and became a registered nurse. However, in 1993 he divorced his wife, with whom he has two daughters.

Charlie Cullen, in prison.  Photo: TONY KURDZUK/AP/
Charlie Cullen, in prison. Photo: TONY KURDZUK/AP/

Cullen began working in various hospitals and nursing homes. He quit several jobs after he was investigated over allegations of misconduct, once because an elderly woman complained that he entered her room and gave her injections when she was not assigned a nurse.

He was discharged from the hospital for hiding heart medication in a needle container.

He bounced around from different medical centers in New Jersey and even worked for a while in Pennsylvania after getting his license to practice there.

Charles Cullen.  Photo: Mike Derer, pool
Charles Cullen. Photo: Mike Derer, pool

Between 1998 and 2002, he was engaged in agency work and some permanent jobs. During this time, he is believed to have killed several people.

His weapon was a drug called digoxin, a drug commonly used to treat people with irregular heartbeats or heart failure, but which is fatal in large doses.

Since 2003, Florian Gall has been under the care of Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, New Jersey. There, Florian Gall suffered a sudden heart attack and died, despite previously showing signs of improvement. After an investigation, it was discovered that Gall had received a fatal dose of digoxin.

While working at this hospital, he met Cullen Amy Loughrenwhich would be key to ending his crimes.

Amy Loughren with Jessica Chastain.
Amy Loughren with Jessica Chastain.

The beginning of the end

Nurse Loughren formed a close bond with Cullen while working night shifts together at Somerset Medical Center in New Jersey in the early 2000s. He was her confidant, he helped her with her daughter and protected her. when he had severe breathing difficulties due to his heart condition.

After several suspicious deaths at the hospital led to an investigation, the police asked Loughren to help them. She provided them with evidence and ultimately played a crucial role in extracting Cullen’s confession. However, accepting that a close friend could have committed such terrible crimes took its toll on him.

Mary Strenko next to a photo of her son Michael, the youngest victim of Charles Cullen: a nurse killed him with a super dose of norepinephrine (AP)
Mary Strenko next to a photo of her son Michael, the youngest victim of Charles Cullen: a nurse killed him with a super dose of norepinephrine (AP)

Loughren, who is in better health after experimental heart surgery 18 years ago, says: “I fought the guilt of missing out [a Cullen]. I struggled with guilt for not seeing that this friendship had a monstrous dark side.

And I didn’t want to see that. I wanted to believe he was a mercy killer so I could continue to care for him. And he wasn’t a mercy killer. He was a cold-blooded killer. I struggled a lot not to understand“.

“I literally risked everything to make sure he was behind bars. I went every day and pushed myself every day no matter how sick I was. She was also a present mother and a good nurse. and now seeing her [a Jessica interpretarla]I feel like I could be proud of that character. That opened up the space for me to say, ‘I did well’.”

Tobias Lindholm, the director of the film “Angel of Death”, said that he could not believe the story and that it was only when he met Amy that he realized how badly the system works, the same one that allowed Cullen to always be fired after getting a job.

Jessica Chastain in a scene from
Jessica Chastain in a scene from the movie “The Good Nurse” Photo: Cr. JoJo Whilden / Netflix

He was fired from five nursing jobs and quit two others because of concerns about his practice. However, during his 16-year career, he always found a new job. This is believed to be partly because hospitals did not voice their suspicions about him for fear of a lawsuit.

“As a result of the Charles Cullen case, every time someone is reported, their records must now be kept for seven years. The fact that it hasn’t happened again… is unbelievable,” Redmayne said in statements collected by BBC Mundo.

The US health care system

The American health care system comes under scrutiny again in the film, showing the difficulty some people have in accessing affordable health care.

Loughren was too sick to work, but she couldn’t qualify for health insurance until she had worked at the hospital for a year, so she had to stay at work against her doctor’s advice.

In one scene, she is seen scrambling for enough money to pay nearly $1,000 for a heart exam, only to end up splitting it between two credit cards.

Noah Emmerich, Nnamdi Asomugha and Jessica Chastain in a scene from
Noah Emmerich, Nnamdi Asomugha and Jessica Chastain in a scene from “Angel of Death”.

The final word on the film’s legacy should perhaps fall to Loughren, who is now a purveyor of alternative medicine.

This platform that I have right now is really about giving a voice to the victims… because that’s what everyone was saying [Cullen] he was a mercy killer and they were going to die anyway. No they didn’t. Many of his victims were very young. Many of his victims were about to leave the hospital, and he stole their chance. And their families deserve that vote“.

Cullen was arrested in December 2003. He was arrested for first-degree murder and attempted murder, and the next day he shocked officers by telling them there were many more. He admitted to killing between 30 and 40 of his patients, but the number is believed to be closer to 400.

In 2006, Charles Cullen was convicted of 29 murders and received 11 life sentences. He agreed to cooperate with investigators to identify all of his victims if they refrain from the death penalty.

Charles Cullen was arrested in 2003 (Image: AP)
Charles Cullen was arrested in 2003 (Image: AP)

At this time, Charles Cullen is still incarcerated at the New Jersey State Penitentiary in Trenton. The accused previously said that he only gave the lethal drugs to “very sick” patients, so he believed that this was putting an end to their pain. Speaking from prison in 2013, Charles said: “I thought people weren’t suffering anymore, so in a way I thought I was helping. My goal here is not to justify. You know what I did, no excuses. I just think the only thing I can say is that I felt overwhelmed at the time“.


“Angel of Death” (The Good Nurse) esavailable on Netflix from October 26. Documentary film based on the story titled “Catching the Killer Nurse”it will also be available on the streaming platform from November 11.

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