Over the past two decades, David Fincher has built an impressive portfolio of feature films, but also a collection of high-quality dramas on Netflix, including “House of Cards.” Fincher is back, alongside Charlize Theron to co-produce “Mindhunter,” a fact-based drama by Joe Penhall.
Based on true events but with some changes to main characters’ names, the series takes place in the late 1970s follows FBI hostage negotiator Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), who has grown tired of his work. Against the better judgement of his superiors, Ford decides to explore the growing criminal elements of deranged murderers and other types of new criminals, with the assistance of veteran agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), who heads the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit. Ford is also supported by his girlfriend Debbie Mitford (Hannah Gross) and psychologist Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv). Ford and Tench set out to interview serial killers in order to understand how criminals think, and to see if this could be of help while solving cases.
Like most Netflix productions, “Mindhunter” boasts strong production value, along with impressive cinematography and staging. The show’s depressing and cynical color tone complements the dreary and hopeless nature of the show’s themes and characters. There is still some lightheartedness to the show; the performances of Groff, McCallany and Gross help to alleviate some of the cynicism, and Torv’s performance helps bring a sense of unusual wonder.
The true standout performance, however, belongs to guest star Cameron Britton, who portrays serial killer Edmund Kemper to such an unnerving but oddly sweet degree as a quirky, unusual and well-spoken murderer who nonchalantly describes his grisly actions. All of the actors portraying the serial killers knock it out of the park, and the interviews with these characters truly bring the show to maximum life. In particular, Jack Erdie’s magnetic performance as Richard Speck near the end of the season stands out.
Fincher, who directed four of the 10 episodes, creates some of his best work yet, and the other directors emulate his style with little issue. Musical motifs throughout also help to illuminate the atmosphere, especially during the interviews, with production design also helping to construct an authentic look and adding to the feelings of dread and intrigue throughout.
Overall, the show is a strong addition to Netflix’s vast and sometimes mixed library of original content, showcasing a mature story with expert direction, taut writing, even pacing and impressive performances all around, but it is the standout serial killers that truly make you want to keep coming back over and over again.
Created by: Joe Penhall
Release Date: Oct. 13
Rating: 5 out of 5