...closes the book on his crimes.
NO MAN OF GOD (2021)
Ted Bundy is one of those figures that provides prime fodder for documentaries, narrative films, and prime-time television. We’re probably at that point now where another Bundy project isn’t needed, but thankfully director Amber Sealey understands this mentality and instead presents the famed serial killer in a slightly different light. There’s an eerie calmness to how Luke Kirby portrays the unsettlingly charismatic Bundy opposite the inquisitive, unsure Elijah Wood as Bill Hagmaier, an FBI profiler who volunteered in 1984 to interview him in a bid to coerce a confession that could hopefully bring a sense of closure to the families of his many victims. A film that’s more minimalistic and still than indulgingly sensational, No Man of God strips away the morbid fascination and closes the book on his crimes.
The reality of Ted Bundy’s psyche is that, most likely, he killed simply because he wanted to. There’s no psychological revelation or in-depth investigation into why he did what he did, and it’s in that sombre, non-exploitive mindset that director Amber Sealey decides to operate. No Man of God is a downtrodden, dry character exploration that will either bore those expecting an exciting insight into Bundy or, as it did with me, fascinate with its incredibly realistic depiction of two men who are using each other in drastically different ways for their own specific benefit.
As much as No Man of God proves fascinating in its realism, there’s not much to the film overall in terms of a narrative. There’s no overtly showy “actor” moments or recreations of Bundy’s crimes, just a simple dialogue-driven game of cat and mouse that will border on being boring to audiences ill-equipped to deal with the true-to-life fact that interviewed investigations such as this seldom result in the typical “aha” moments so many serial-killer thrillers like to adhere to for the pure sake of entertainment.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Essentially a two-man show between Elijah Wood and Luke Kirby, No Man of God is a stunning showcase for the two actors, both easily disappearing into their respective roles. Wood’s wide-eyed innocence assists his performance in his somewhat initial naivety in taking on such a task as talking to the notorious Bundy. As the aforementioned murderer, Kirby is nothing short of striking as he embodies the figure with an almost aloof demeanour that only further adds a layer of unease to his undeniably charismatic aura.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
There’s no need for such assisted extravagance throughout, but the design of the film itself lends to its 1980’s setting. It’s an almost clinical looking film that feels lifted out of the 80’s era, with the grime of Bundy’s temperament complementing the muted colour palette.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
There’s such a stillness to the film that it’s lack of supplementation is its own additive. The film implores an understated score of suitable dramatic tones, layering the script’s verbal sparring in an almost subconscious fashion.
A different take on the serial killer narrative than usual, Ted Bundy should indeed be left out of the medium now. His victims and their families deserve their peace, and though No Man of God is an impressive piece of work, succeeding at being a discomforting look at the man’s narcissism, Sealey feels like she’s peeled back so much of the fascination with him that there’s little to nothing left. A thematically heavy film that should only be viewed by those prepared for extended sequences of dialogue, No Man of God is a captivating watch but one that can’t entice secondary rounds.