A review of No Man of God

*

If ever the powers that be decided to take a look at my TV viewing habits it’s safe to say that they will see a distinct pattern, a pattern that would suggest that I am nothing more than a sad and twisted individual who has nothing better to do than obsess over all things fictional and non-fictional horror productions (I know, I had you at ‘sad and twisted individual’). My wife is no better as her streaming recommendations based on previous viewing invariably include anything of a real-crime/serial killing type of material. Now before you go thinking that we’re some budding Fred & Rose West in the making, well worry not……… it’s all just a healthy wholesome interest in all things bloody violent murder.

*

*

Now I know that we all have our favourite serial killer (what, too soon?) and while I’m yet to compile my top 10 psycho killers I’m guessing that a certain Ted Bundy would feature somewhere in that list. After more than 30 years since Bundy’s execution public and media obsession in the man, his motivations and crimes show little sign of diminishing with more documentaries and drama productions available than you could shake a stick at. Nearly every angle of his life and case have been examined; from his early influences, his motivations, the actual killings themselves to the courtroom trials and numerous appeals afterwards – every element of interest is catered for. Well, nearly every element…..

*

*

The one area that has had less coverage is attempt after his conviction are the attempts to explore his psychological perspective. Thankfully No Man Of God offers a truly unique perspective of an F.B.I agent attempting to delve into the dark and twisted mind of one of America’s most notorious serial killers. The movie examines follows a rarely seen episode in criminal history, after Bundy was sentenced to death and prepared for execution, the FBI sent in a young rookie analyst to interrogate the murderer to try and find out the full extent of his crimes, his motives and to find answers for his actions to help the victims’ families.

*

Directed by Amber Sealey (How to Cheat) and penned by C. Robert Cargill (Doctor Strange) based on actual interview transcripts, the critically acclaimed film features outstanding performances from a stellar cast that sees Elijah Wood as FBI analyst Bill Hagmaier, the man tasked by FBI boss (Robert Patrick) to get inside the mind of the infamous killer, Ted Bundy played in an unnervingly convincing turn by Luke Kirby.

*

*

What we have in No Man of God is a very simple premise for most parts, the story is taken from real-life transcripts often based in a singular interrogation room, the mind of Bundy is explored from 1984 to the day of his execution in 1989. However, don’t let the outwardly simple premise put you off, it would be easy to think how the narrative could find itself constricted by the limits of a limiting stage type production featuring large segments of two men sitting across a desk from each other. But fear not, because under the astute control of director Amber Sealey and writer C. Robert Cargill (“Doctor Strange”), this film is an incredible examination of the motives and actions of two equally complex and driven individuals and features moments of genuine chills and uneasy disquiet.

*

*

Of course, a film of this nature falls squarely on the shoulders of the main actors. Robert Patrick is excellent as the FBI boss who tasks the young rookie with the job but it is Elijah Wood and Luke Kirby who bare the brunt of the scenes – it’s safe to say that they are magnificent as we witness the metamorphosis of their interaction and relationship over the next four years. Kirby is mesmerising as the intelligent, charismatic and deeply insane Bundy as he attempts to manoeuvre the FBI agent around his inner world of Psychosis – at times he’s pleasant and engaging, at others dismissive and cynical. But it’s the occasional moments of chilling psychopathy that Kirby emits that are the most effective, often with nothing more than a brief gaze of the eyes. Elijah Wood produces perhaps the performance of his career as the rookie agent carrying emotional baggage of his own as his contends with his conflicting aspects of ambition, determination and periods of self-doubt as he performs a never-ending conversational dance with his adversary.

*

The ongoing relationship between the two main characters is certainly interesting as we see some sort of bond appear, though cleverly we are never really sure whether the occasional warmth between was born out of a necessity on Hagmaier’s part to obtain information or simply the result of so much close confined time spent together. It is often in these moments of conversational intimacy when Bundy’s true insanity shows itself and thus providing genuine moments of unease. Moments of unease also can be seen throughout and at the end in the regular usage of real news footage of the crowds outside the prison – some there to plead for the cancellation of an execution, but many more there seemingly revelling in the macabre proceedings as they cheer, whistle and are generally being entertained at the prospect of another human being’s death. Regardless of ones views on the death penalty, making it a celebratory event, complete with burger stands and balloons seems as chilling as anything.
And does that judgement of mine conflict with my initial accounts here of my own TV viewing habits? You bet your arse it does.

*

*

I cannot recommend this film highly enough, if you like actors at the top of their craft, skilful writing & direction as well an intelligent examination of the pursuit of psychological knowledge then this this the baby for you.

Released on digital 13 September 2021
On DVD and Special Edition Blu-ray on 25 October 2021

*

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *