By: Witney Seibold
As a crime thriller, “Suspect Zero is unsuccessful.” Director E. Elias Merhige, who previously made the clever “Shadow of the Vampire,” and 1991’s “Begotten,” one of the most visceral and shaking film experiences I have had, is clearly not interested in making another pat crime drama, though. As a mood piece, his new film is top notch. Rather than taking through the usual jolts and plot twists, Merhige, with his use of odd lighting (even the exteriors seem to be devoid of sunlight), abstract montages (minutes are taken out at a time to simply pan over the elements of the crime; a map of dates, lidless eyes, automatic writing and artwork), and unsettling abduction sequences (shot: a child riding a bike… shot: bike abandoned in a gutter), is instead giving us a cross section of a thriller, complete with visible y-incision. It’s more an unconscious impression of a police drama than the real item. Its astonishing visuals, matched with Clint Mansel’s half-inaudible, half-dissonant score (Mansel previously scored “л”) made this a rather astonishing experience.
It is unfortunate that few others will find the same appeal in this film as I did, but that’s to be expected. Had the film found a middle ground between its evocative moods, and its story, it would have been great. The story is not half-bad, either: abused FBI agent (Aaron Eckhart) is on the trail of a serial killer, taunting him with messages (pat in a thriller of this type. The serial killer is played by Ben Kingsley (whose performance is extraordinarily odd) and he has the ability to psychically intuit where people are (called “far-seeing” in some circles). He is tracking down, oddly, other serial killers. The increasingly frustrated agent (and, also oddly, increasingly psychic), pins the local slew of child disappearances on him as well, but… is he really the one responsible? Hm…
Merhige is an artist of a high caliber, so it’s expected that he can pull something out of a film so ripe with possibilities. It’s just too bad that the thriller he chose to direct couldn’t be, well, a little more thrilling. Go for the thriller, stay for the mood.