Review: No Man Of God (2021)

  • Director: Amber Sealey
  • Writer: Kit Lesser
  • Stars: Elijah Wood, Luke Kirby, Robert Patrick

Review

Ted Bundy has, inexplicably, become a media darling 32 years after his execution. There have been a number of movies and documentaries about Bundy recently and while you may be thinking that you do not need another movie about the allegedly handsome necrophiliac serial killer in your life, I am here to tell you that, at the very least, you do need Luke Kirby in your life.

In the 80’s, the FBI created a team of five men who were tasked with developing and perfecting criminal profiling. One of the younger members of the team, Bill Hagmaier (Elijah Wood), volunteers to contact Ted Bundy despite the fact that Bundy was notorious for hating Federal agents and the fact that he pegs Hagmaier as a young rookie, initially, works against them. Hagmaier may be young, but he’s smart enough to appeal to Bundy’s ego and after a while, the two develop a kind of friendship: it’s this peculiar relationship that is the focus of Amber Sealey’s No Man of God.

Taking place almost entirely in a prison interrogation room, Wood and Kirby elevate No Man of God into a uniquely engaging experience. The profiler becoming friends with the killer is nothing new and with the recent boon in true crime, an interrogation room isn’t exactly new territory either. Wood is always reliable for playing a doe eyed, inherently sweet and optimistic person without it feeling too saccharine or one note and that’s exactly why he works so well as Hagmaier. Hagmaier is a traditional, religious family man who takes pride in doing his job well and to the best of his abilities. He treats Ted Bundy with an appropriate balance of respect, humanity and caution.

The scene where we meet Ted Bundy for the first time sets the tone for the film. Sealey knows just how amazing Kirby is as Bundy and she expertly draws it out for the viewer with unique camera angels, overhead shots and perfectly placed shadows. Your first glimpse of Ted is a spectacular tease and the remainder of the film utilizes close up shots of him that really illustrate just how good he was at mimicking normal human behavior. Kirby is a fucking standout. He has nailed the way Bundy speaks and sounds like a friendly, intelligent guy, but he’s also always a bit cagey with his posturing and eye contact, or lack thereof. Sealey plays on this expertly as well. While Hagmaier is filmed in full light and with a lot of full on facial shots, Bundy is almost always in a shadow, in profile, looking up at Hagmaier or seen from overhead. He is filmed just as elusively as he was with Hagmaier. Wood and Kirby work so well with one another that, at times, the film feels like being a fly on the wall in a chat amongst friends.

In the final 13 hours before his execution, Bundy will try various routes to get a stay granted from the governor and this is when other people crash the party. Various agents from other states trying to get Bundy to confess to murders and an evangelist who does an interview with him. Bundy’s lawyer works hard for him despite the fact that you can visibly see that she loathes him and literally recoils at his touch. It’s the final scene between Bundy and Hagmaier that really showcases what these actors can do. It’s a strangely intimate, heart-breaking scene that also drives home just how abhorrent Bundy was. Writer C. Robert Cargill (writing as Kit Lesser) delivers his first screenplay without his long-time writing partner and proves that he is more than capable on his own.

While Bundy and the 80’s aesthetic, synth score included, have all become a bit well worn at this point, Sealey, Kirby and Wood have created something worthy of praise.

No Man Of God is available In Cinemas, On Demand & Digital August 27, 2021.

Lisa Fremont

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