Netflix continues to cash in on the recent craze around crime and punishment (Making a Murderer, The Confession Tapes) with Mindhunter as the latest installment in this saga, produced by David Fincher and Charlize Theron. While Netflix’s other dalliances in the true crime genre have been chilling documentaries, this new series is a dramatized adaptation of the true crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit which was written by and based on the life of FBI agent John E Douglas.
Set in 1977, FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and psychologist Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), under the strict supervision of Shepard (Cotter Smith), unit chief of the FBI National Training Academy, work to interview imprisoned serial killers. This is in an effort to understand how the mind of a mass murderer works, in the hope of solving ongoing cases throughout the United States. It is the FBI’s first foray into the world of criminal psychology.
Fans of Agents K and J from Men in Black will enjoy the familiar dynamic between Holden Ford and Bill Tench, warmly acted by Groff and McCallany. While Holden is a young, precocious, and idealistic agent who is prone to act based on instinct rather than reason, Bill is older, takes his time to act, loves golf, and is sometimes quite cynical. Torv and Deborah Mitford, sociology student and Holden’s girlfriend, are fiercely clever, professional, and strong women who own their sexualities. They command respect from the men and challenge them to think outside the box.
What makes Mindhunter so captivating is its ability to oscillate between being both a charmingly stylised glimpse into 70s America and a gritty, sometimes graphic showcase of some of the worst crimes committed by serial killers in the United States. One minute you’re watching Ford and his girlfriend get breakfast at a homely diner and the next you’re watching a slow zoom in on a serial killer as he coldly tells Agent Ford that women “deploy their minds and their sex and intuitively learn to humiliate men”. Cut from this scene to a minute-long montage, set to the tune of ‘Fly Like an Eagle’ by the Steve Miller Band, oozing with 70s nostalgia. Classic cars, motels and diners form this, as do Agents Ford and Tench comically sleeping wherever they can.
Mindhunter is a beautifully stylised and cleverly soundtracked series that capitalises on 1970s nostalgia. Not only does it capture the aesthetic, but also the force and success of the civil rights movement, while also providing plenty of chills and payoffs like a true crime show should. Populated by complex characters, Mindhunter is definitely worth watching and will leave you with some 70s bangers stuck in your head and maybe a few nightmares.
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