No Man of God is not just another Ted Bundy movie. Instead of focusing on the infamous serial killer or the investigation to bring him in, the film is set in a very specific period of time. Bill Hagmaier (Elijah Wood) is an FBI psychoanalyst who is studying the mind of incarcerated Bundy (Luke Kirby). But is Hagmaier getting too close to his subject?
Spoiler: Hagmaier is a real life FBI agent who went on to have a successful career and never became a Bundy copy cat. This does not prevent No Man of God from showing the possible effects the charismatic killer may have. In some of the film’s most chilling scenes, Hagmaier stares at woman while he his driving. His thoughts are unclear, but after spending so many hours with a man who preyed on females, it is frightening.
No Man of God boasts two strong performances. In recent years, Wood has shown a willingness to take risks in the roles he has taken on. His take on Hagmaier is a muted one. Like many, he is trying to understand Bundy, but he comes from an unusual place. He does not want to out think Bundy; he treats him as curiosity he is trying to understand.
It is more difficult than it initially sounds. Wood has to play a person who is smart, but not overly so. But he has to be intelligent enough to fool Bundy into thinking they are almost equals. However, he has to make sure he does not scare the convicted killer away. All the while, he has to make sure he keeps his own psyche in order.
Kirby is also fantastic. There have been many – perhaps, too many – films that have examined Bundy. This means there are many points of comparison regarding Kirby’s performance. He is arrogant, remorseless, and devious. These are all traits presented on screen before. What Kirby and by extension, No Man of God, does different is remove the glamour that has made Bundy a familiar fixture in cinema.
Combined, this leads to great exchanges between the two. Again, it seems like nothing new on the surface, but by adding a human quality to the proceedings, No Man of God destroys the odd aura around Bundy and makes the killer more accessible. The acts are still vile, but they are also shown for what they are: the actions of a sad, sick, vile man.
No Man of God comes to VOD, digital, and theaters August 27
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