SYNOPSIS: An exploration of Ted Kaczynski’s life in Lincoln, Montana in the years leading up to his arrest as The Unabomber.
Kaczynski’s reign of terror lasted for 17 long years between 1978 and his eventual capture in 1995. During this time, a total of 17 explosive devices were either mailed or hand-delivered to his victims, killing 3 and injuring 22 others, resulting in the largest manhunt in FBI history.
Ted K opens with an ominous percussive thrum, bellowing horns, and a chorus of voices that suggest we are about to witness an edge-of-your-seat thriller, as Ted observes a group of people tearing through a snowy landscape on Skidoos. The soundtrack is misleading, however, and occasionally at jarring odds with the imagery presented to us, as this disturbing-yet-fascinating story is told, at times, with an almost poetic quality by director Tony Stone, who is also credited as co-writer along with Gaddy Davis and John Rosenthal.
Ted (Sharlto Copley) is a highly intelligent yet socially awkward man who is at odds with modern society and its advancing technology. So much so in fact, that he ultimately leaves behind a professorship in mathematics, choosing instead, to live in the mountains of Lincoln, Montana in a cabin without running water or electricity for the next 25 years. As society begins to encroach on his secluded life, Kaczynksi becomes a radicalized eco-warrior. Copley – also on board as producer – is in virtually every frame and delivers the performance of his career as the notorious Unabomber, quietly conveying a complexity of mind and accompanying eccentricities without resorting to tics or grandstanding. A scene in which he tells his mother about never having got past first base with a girl is one stand out among many. It speaks volumes about just how good he is here as he ably elicits feelings of sadness for a murder – it’s quite something.
Ted K is an unusually beautiful and dreamlike crime drama that grips from the start. Stone forges an arresting reconstruction of Kacynski’s reign of terror, buoyed by Copley’s career-defining performance and, whilst it might not dig quite deep enough to help the audience obtain a greater understanding of the man himself, it’s certainly more than worth the hike into the mountains.
Ted K releases in theatres and on digital this Friday, February 18.