Finally, a Ted Bundy movie worth watching! With excellent casting and a great deal of accurate information provided, I felt like I was viewing something worthy of being taken seriously. This movie showed a much more accurate picture of Ted as a flawed human, a violent individual, and someone who truly deserved to be executed in Florida’s electric chair. This is not a movie about Ted Bundy the heartthrob, it’s about Ted Bundy the serial killer. It demonstrates Bundy’s final three years on death row and the connection he forged with FBI agent Bill Hagmaier, played excellently by actor Elijah Wood. Bundy came to trust Hagmaier, more than another other person in law enforcement, and divulged many of his private thoughts and confessions about the women and girls he murdered.
First, let me note that actor Luke Kirby as Ted Bundy literally killed it. (Pun intended.) His controlled voice, sly facial expressions, cautiousness upon meeting Hagmaier, and his initial suspicion of the agent are all very true to form. Kirby’s long nails resembled Bundy’s, along with the deep creases in his forehead, and his five o’clock shadow. The yellow shirt he wore on death row and his wiry, curly hair was spot-on. The only differences I noted between the man playing him and the actual killer were a distinct height difference (Kirby is 6’4” and Bundy was 5’10) and Kirby has hazel eyes while Bundy’s eyes were dark blue.
I enjoyed watching Hagmaier’s interactions with Ted and his genuine plea to learn from him, something that a narcissist like Bundy would have loved. The conversation they share about how Bundy was more educated than Hagmaier (Bundy had just over a year of law school) would have appealed to Ted. The general back and forth sharing of information about childhood pain (particularly from Hagmaier) reminded me of the dynamic that Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter shared in “Silence of the Lambs.” Of course, Hannibal was partially based on Bundy, so this makes sense.
I was impressed that this film got so many facts right including using Bundy’s daughter’s real name, Rosa, where most movies change it in an attempt to anonymize her. The movie also showed that Bundy hadn’t seen his daughter for awhile after his wife learned he was confessing and she refused to see him after 1986. There were discussions of Bundy’s real relationships with crime author, Ann Rule, and his ex-girlfriend, Liz Kloepfer. Hagmaier even used Bundy’s ex-girlfriend, Diane Edwards’ real name, which was something new. Bundy denied Rule’s theory about him killing women because of his breakup with Diane. He stated that being dumped had nothing to do with why he started killing. Something else I have always believed about Bundy is that he never wanted to be caught, which is what Kirby’s character echoes here as well. It took me a moment to realize who “Carolyn Lieberman” was supposed to represent. For some reason, the film didn’t use Bundy’s attorney’s real name, Diana Weiner, but perhaps her name was changed for legal reasons.
I was surprised that Bundy’s eleventh-hour interview with “Focus on the Family’s” Dr. James Dobson was featured, even down to the dialogue and Bundy’s expressions during the conversation. When Dobson told Bundy’s attorney that Florida’s governor was never going to pardon Bundy, despite insinuating that Dobson might help him, I found myself nodding along. We all knew that Martinez wasn’t going to grant Bundy clemency, but I suppose Bundy had to try everything he could.
This movie shows the conversation Bundy had with Bill stating that rather than allow the state to kill him, he would slit his own wrists. Of course, Bill talked him out of it, though I doubt Bundy would have seriously committed suicide. I don’t think he was brave enough.
Overall, I was very pleased with this film and would highly recommend it based on its factual elements and excellent acting. The directing was good, the movie wasn’t overly long (1 hour 40 minutes), and if you’re unfamiliar with these particular conversations between Hagmaier and Bundy, you’ll learn a lot.