When we got back from the screening of To Catch a Killer – shot mainly in Montreal – we ran into one of our bosses and gave him our impressions. Our exchange ends with: “It feels good to see this kind of production. We quickly realize that this phrase can be misinterpreted.
The premise of Argentinian Damián Szifron’s first English-language film seems to be constantly in the news: a gunman shoots down 29 people for no apparent reason. What we meant by “do good” is that it can be gripping to be told a plausible, intelligent, and singular story, even if it is tragic.
The dark event opens the film. We show it, but the camera mainly lands on the people around those who lose their lives. They pass abruptly from joy and ecstasy to desolation and panic. It’s terrifyingly realistic.
Shortly after the shots were fired, the apartment building they were fired from exploded. Police officer Eleanor Falco (Shailene Woodley) does not hesitate to step onto the crime scene. FBI investigator Geoffrey Lammark (Ben Mendelsohn) notices her for the first time. Then, a second, at the police station. He then asks her to join his team – his reasoning is not the most convincing, but let’s move on.
Both actors deliver solid and nuanced performances. Although they are known faces, they fade behind their character. Their relationship is central to Szifron and Jonathan Wakeham’s storyline. They avoid the clichés of the brilliant but broken woman who teaches life to her superior – in addition to seeing what escapes everyone. Nor does Lammark turn out to be a man who pretends he needs a young policewoman for the wrong reasons. The pair complement each other well and bond, but their union remains at the service of the investigation.
There is a lot of politics and hierarchy in the conduct of the investigation. This is an interesting aspect, but sometimes takes up too much space. The tension is still maintained thanks to precise editing, effective action scenes and music by Carter Burwell (The Banshees of Inisherin, almost all the films of the Coen brothers).
Damián Szifron obviously has talent. Before being in the running for the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2014, then at the Oscars the following year, with Relatos salvajes (The new savages), he had directed the successful series Los Simuladores, in Argentina. The latter will be the subject of a film soon. We hope to see his works on our screens more often.