Review: To Catch a Killer

Written and directed by Damián Szifron, co-written by Jonathan Wakeham, Baltimore. New Year’s Eve. A talented but troubled police officer is recruited by the FBI’s chief investigator help profile and track down a disturbed individual terrorizing the city. Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ben Mendelsohn, Ralph Ineson, Jovan Adepo and Rosemary Dunsmore.

With the landscape of film today so saturated with crime mysteries and thrillers, it’s a genuine treat when you find one that’s satisfying and holds your attention, To Catch a Killer is one of those films. Granted, it has a few weaknesses, there’s a whole bigger discussion to be had about mental health, that it only dips its toes into and it misses out on hitting a larger note of depth and emotion. However, when you take into consideration how it stands in comparison to its vast competition, those elements may have elevated it but it still stands firmly on its own two feet.

Starting with its characters who are all strong, engaging and relatable. Shailene Woodley’s Eleanor Falco feels like a nod to Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling, she’s ambitious and talented but comes with a lot of baggage. She’s a great lead for the story, isolated and broken but also capable of working as part of team, she has that type of intuition which is really entertaining to watch. Woodley’s performance does justice to all of those qualities, it’s vulnerable yet strong. When she’s then paired with Ben Mendelsohn and Jovan Adepo, the performance only becomes stronger. Mendelsohn is so very reliable, he’s great in everything and just as intense and potent as ever here. Adepo gives a touch of lightness and caring which is a perfect way to balance out the trio.

It’s yet another dark role for Ralph Ineson who lurks in the background for the majority of the film but when he does break into the light, he makes a strong impression. The film also does an interesting job of bringing to the table the idea of justice versus optics. In a world obsessed with image and social media leading to such quick reactions, the right path can become muddled when it’s thick with politicians and elected officials.

Damián Szifron’s direction leans into the thriller vibe which helps to keep a great pacing and captivating atmosphere. Along with Javier Julia’s cinematography, the film really embraces the darkness both in tone and aesthetic. At times it can veer into less sharp territory but it’s still solid work. The score however can feel out of place, it’s missing a subtle touch, tending to land on the sentimental side and undermine the tension of To Catch a Killer.

To Catch a Killer could be darker or deeper but at the end of the day, it doesn’t need to be to create an entertaining thriller. The leading trio of Shailene Woodley, Ben Mendelsohn and Jovan Adepo are the classic band of righteous heroes against a broken system. With the endless stream of mediocre crime films that you have to wade through to find a decent one, it’s a sincere pleasure to find one like this that’s enjoyable, captivating and has surprises in store.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

In Theaters from April 21

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