Boston Strangler Review
When watching “Boston Strangler,” audiences will immediately notice the bleak atmosphere and David Fincher-inspired aesthetic. Writer-director Matt Ruskin uses desaturated colors, frame composition, and camera movements to pull viewers into this true-crime tale centered on reporters determined to solve Boston’s serial killings in the early 1960s. Although the film falls short of its influences, it carves out its own space with homages to “Zodiac” and “Seven.” It exposes the sloppy, sexism-laced police work that could have resolved the case and pays tribute to the two women who broke the investigation wide open.
Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley), a happily married mother of three and a lifestyle reporter at the Record American, hopes to break into the homicide beat. She discovers a link between the murders of several elderly women and the killer’s signature of a stocking garrote tied around their violated necks. Her editor Jack (Chris Cooper) is hesitant to let her investigate but agrees to let her take the assignment on spec. However, her first front-page story draws the ire of Boston Police Commissioner McNamara (Bill Camp). Jack assigns Loretta a seasoned partner, Jean Cole (Carrie Coon), whose connections and quick-witted know-how will yield better results.
As Loretta learns the tricks of the trade from Jean and befriends Detective Conley (Alessandro Nivola), she sees the pitfalls manifest in her home life. The death toll rises, persons of interest slip through their hands, and the police’s glaring mistakes begin to surface. Meanwhile, the time-consuming legwork causes marital strife with her supportive husband James (Morgan Spector), who becomes less understanding as the stress mounts. Loretta also fends off harassment from creepy individuals and menacing strangers delivering threatening letters at night. But seeing the cutouts of her articles next to her sleeping daughter’s bed reminds her of the reasons why she’s vigilant, and she regains her shaken confidence.
Matt Ruskin’s “Boston Strangler” features a desolate ambiance and a David Fincher-inspired aesthetic, using desaturated colors, frame composition, and camera movements to draw viewers into this true-crime tale. This thriller pays tribute to the determined reporters who tried to solve Boston’s serial killings in the early 1960s, making a searing indictment of the police work riddled with sexism that could have solved the case. Although it falls short of its influences, the movie manages to carve out a space of its own, with splashes of “Seven” mixed into its homages, and highlighting the two women who broke the investigation wide open.
Keira Knightley plays Loretta McLaughlin, a happily married mother of three who works as a lifestyle reporter at the Record American. Hoping to break out of the staff role she’s in and land a job on the homicide beat, she stumbles upon a connection between the murders of elderly women and the killer’s signature garrote tied around their necks. Despite her editor Jack’s reluctance to let her investigate, she strikes a deal to take the assignment on spec. Loretta’s first front-page story draws the ire of Boston Police Commissioner McNamara, and Jack assigns her a seasoned partner, Jean Cole (Carrie Coon), whose connections and quick-witted know-how help them get better results.
Ruskin’s strong visual dexterity shines through, as he strategically places his protagonists within the frame to track their mindsets and motivations. However, the movie’s technical craftsmanship is more impressive than its narrative, which is noticeably weaker. While Knightley displays nuances that allow viewers to chart Loretta’s psyche, Ruskin’s screenplay underplays Coon’s talent by failing to give Jean a multidimensional internality, despite her performance elevating her material. The movie’s final breaths strike an unintentional down note, sending a deflating message that could discourage women from pursuing their dreams.