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Review: ‘To Catch a Killer’

Shailene Woodley, Ben Mendelsohn and Jovan Adepo star in a suspense thriller, directed by Damián Szifron.

A young police officer, Eleanor Falco (Shailene Woodley) is quickly added by FBI investigator Geoffrey Lammark (Ben Mendelsohn) to his tiny team, charged with locating a mass murderer who shot and killed 29 people in Baltimore on New Year’s Eve. 

Geoffrey insists on keeping his team limited to himself and special agent Mackenzie (Jovan Adepo), bringing on Eleanor as a so-called “liason” between himself and the local police force. Understandably, that adds to the pressure of finding a killer who left little to no evidence behind. 

Suspense is baked into the premise, as the focus narrows to savvy veteran investigator Geoffrey and fledgling profiler Eleanor, working along with Mackenzie, as they chase down leads. The script, credited to Jonathan Wakeham and Damián Szifron, begins with an intentional The Silence of the Lambs vibe to how to Geoffrey and Eleanor collaborate, developing further as shades of their backgrounds and personalities are revealed, before becoming absorbed into the investigation itself. 

Hailing from Argentina, Damián Szifron’s third feature, the superb and sprawling Wild Tales (2014), excited everyone who saw it, including myself. Szifron was then set to direct Six Billion Dollar Man before stepping down over “creative differences.” To Catch a Killer is his first film since then, and it shows that he has not lost his ability to craft a compelling narrative, elicit top-notch performances, and frame shots that mysteriously disorient before smoothly resolving into clarity. 

It’s also fascinating to have an outsider’s perspective on the prevalence of mass shootings in the U.S. Without descending into shrill sloganeering, the implicit anti-gun messages are weaved into the fabric of the narrative, elevating the material from the typical, limited, familiar range of police procedurals

Though the closing sequences are not entirely convincing, the film has built up sufficient momentum by then to maintain its tight grip. It’s a relief to relax, finally, and take a deep breath as the closing credits roll. 

The film opens today in Dallas, Fort Worth and surrounding cities, only in theaters, via Vertical Entertainment. For more information about the film, visit the official site