Sunday, September 26, 2004

Suspect Zero

-spoiler alert-

Suspect Zero stars Aaron Eckhart as Thomas Mackelway, a disgraced FBI agent who is moved to an obscure field office in New Mexico and assigned to find a serial killer. Thomas is seeking redemption from his failures, and so is the suspect. Both seek the serial killer and they end up chasing each other.

The always excellent Ben Kingsley plays a former FBI agent,  Benjamin O'Ryan, who is actually some kind of phantom because he is supposed to be dead, or non-existent. He, too, is seeking redemption from his failures as an FBI agent who was supposed to save and protect people, but was not able to do so.

Thomas chases O'Ryan only to discover that it is O'Ryan who is chasing serial killers and murdering them in an effort to reach Thomas. But why? Because he discovers that he has been psychologically programmed to search and destroy killers by the government. And so has Mackelway, only he has to go on this journey to hunt O'Ryan to find this out.

This is where the film falls apart. It's already a well-formulated redemption story, but add in the conspiracy theory and you start to wonder if it is in competition with The Manchurian Candidate.

Another factor that works against the film is the intense and gory brutality and violence. Also, I can understand using religious imagery as some kind of metaphor for redemption, but if this is the case, it's incomplete. We don't have enough back story for O'Ryan to have the imagery make useful sense to the plot.

I can also understand the survivor's guilt of agents who are committed to a task to help people and who fail. But this is a top-heavy treatment of the subject. It opts for gore and violence to visualize the inner conflict of the agents, but its lack of subtlety on every level left me squirming in my seat and aching to leave the theater. And that's the last thing a filmmaker wants.





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