Illeana Scott (Angelina Jolie) is an FBI profiler who immerses herself in her cases. She eats alone in an elegant hotel room, staring at photos of crime scenes and corpses. When construction equipment uncovers a dead body, she lies down in the muddy pit where and closes her eyes. She lies down on top of a bed that might have been the murderer’s, to see what he saw.
Scott has been brought in by the Canadian police to help them solve a murder. It turns out to be linked to other murders, probably the work of a man who kills men his age and size and then takes over their lives until it is time to move on to the next, “like a hermit crab — he outgrows one body and starts looking for a new one.”
The only witness is Costa (Ethan Hawke), an artist preparing for a big show. Illeana is not sure whether to trust him, arrest him, or fall for him. But is what draws her to him the part of her that understands killers?
Jolie’s character is inconsistently conceived, forcing her to take on almost as many personalities as the killer, cool professional, tomboy feminist, girlish romantic, and nesting loner. She has to be tough and vulnerable as the whims of the script demand, and that takes some of the steam out of the story. But director D.J. Caruso and a strong cast make the best of the potboiler material, creating a nicely creepy atmosphere and knowing when to surprise the audience with a shock — or a laugh — to release the tension. So if you don’t try to make it all make sense, you might find it to be a thriller with a couple of genuine thrills. And you can be relieved that at least this one doesn’t star Ashley Judd.
Parents should know that this is an R-rated thriller with intense and graphic violence. There are graphic injuries and grisly dead bodies, including some decomposed and one badly burned, plus a severed finger and a bloody wound. There are many tense scenes with characters in peril and one (apparently) especially horrific injury. Characters drink, smoke, and use strong language. There are sexual references and a sexual situation including nudity.
Families who see this movie should talk about what a profiler of serial killers might have in common with the killers to be profiled, a theme also explored in the Hannibal Lecter books by Thomas Harris. Families might want to take a look at the FBI’s website, which has a lot of information about their investigations, programs, and employment opportunities.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the multi-Oscar-winning Silence of the Lambs and the underrated first Hannibal Lecter movie, Manhunter. They will also enjoy Jagged Edge with Glenn Close as a defense attorney who is drawn to her charming client even though he is charged with murdering his wife, and Copycat with Sigourney Weaver as a profiler stalked by a killer. And they should see Hitchcock’s great classic of the “should I trust the man I am attracted to” genre, Suspicion, with Oscar-winner Joan Fontaine wondering whether new husband Cary Grant wants to kill her with that glass of milk.