No Man of God Movie Review
Written by Joanna K. Neilson
Released by 101 Films
Directed by Amber Sealey
Written by Kit Lesser
2021, 100 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Released on 25th October 2021
Elijah Wood as Bill Hagmaier
Luke Kirby as Ted Bundy
Aleksa Palladino as Carolyn Lieberman
Robert Patrick as Roger Depue
Have you heard of good old Ted Bundy? Self-described as "the most cold-hearted son of a bitch you'll ever meet"? His life is a little hard to miss, consciously or not, as his wacky murderous (and worse) exploits are plastered across movies and documentaries, his techniques referenced in everything from The Silence of the Lambs to edgy Zac Efron movies. What he did is a rabbit warren of depravity, but what this mannered, downbeat slice of serial-killer drama tries to show, is exactly when the life and death of this certified monster became a sick sideshow.
It’s only fitting for someone who got the first televised trial, after all.
In No Man of God, mild-mannered Bill Hagmaier (Elijah Wood at his most wholesome-yet-steely) is an FBI analyst and investigator who volunteers to try interviewing Ted Bundy (Luke Kirby). The killer has been locked up for a while at this point, in the early 1980s, but he refuses to take any interviews seriously. This is a problem because he’s holding on to vital information that might provide the families of his victims some closure. So, Hagmaier starts off by simply gaining his trust. But does he really want Bundy living rent-free in his head too?
Now, despite that potential, this it isn’t the most exhilarating serial killer drama you’ll ever watch. It’s based on the real account of the itnerviews between Haigmaier and Bundy, after all, so there’s no Hannibal escape here (though Bundy did evade prison twice). However, there’s a great deal more to recommend it. With a mood more Mindhunter than Texas Chain Saw, so as long as you have patience for the former, you should appreciate how subtle this is. After all, there are so many ways, outrageous and lurid, to explore the worst excesses of what Bundy did. And in No Man of God, the action is almost entirely pared down to a quiet interview room and the conversations between two men, with only occasional flashes back to the fake-happy-homelife that Bundy hid within for so long.
Much more disturbing is his corrosive effect on the way Haigmaier starts to see the world around him. And the carnival atmosphere surrounding his impending death row date is the most repellent part of the movie. A few times, Bundy gains what could be considered audience sympathy, even as the disgust with his actions is writ large across the late 1980s USA. Because we aren’t shown exactly what he did in this specific film, although it’s heavily implied, there’s just enough detachment for a glimpse of humanity.
But never forget that Bundy has been described as "a sadistic sociopath who took pleasure from another human's pain and the control he had over his victims, to the point of death, and even after." One camerawoman’s reaction to Bundy may stay with you the most - going by her expression, she considers him some kind of disgusting new vermin that she wants to get away from as quickly as possible.
So as a peek into depravity without the usual gore or gunfights, this works. Even if it is so low key it’s hard to fully explain why it works. But Luke Kirby delivers an incredible performance, helped in no small part by his incredible likeness to the killer. Elijah Wood’s wide-eyed, agent Haigmeier is a very nice blend of disingenuousness and purposeful smart guy.
Overall, this is well worth a look. While it definitely isn’t the only film about Ted Bundy you’ll ever need, anyone intrigued by his twisted life should absolutely add it to their watchlist.
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