Ted K is a biographical crime drama chronicle of Ted Kaczynski’s life in Lincoln, Montana, in the years before his capture as The Unabomber. This is a film from the director of the documentary Peter and the Farm, Tony Stone. Having grappled with themes relating to loneliness, mental health and alienation in this documentary about an alcoholic proprietor who keeps insisting the filmmakers make the narrative about his suicide, it’s only a few clicks from the story of The Unabomber.
A fly-on-the-wall blend of Into the Wild and Castaway, Stone takes the countercultural instincts of this cross-country adventure and infuses it with a strangely compelling near-solo survivalist performance. Ted K’s secret weapon is without a doubt Sharlto Copley, an inspired casting decision that works wonders for this American domestic terrorist “memoir”.
A character study, Copley has a fine balance of comedic and dramatic intuition, immersing himself into Ted’s situation wholeheartedly. This intimate foray into the man’s motives and symbiotic relationship with nature, offer enough identification points that you may be mostly disturbed by just how much you empathise with him. Capturing some of the gung-ho and “free agent” spirit behind shows like The A-Team and MacGyver, perhaps this is why the lines seem blurred.
“What, me worry?”
Having had a hiatus from acting, it’s a welcome and triumphant return for Copley, whose captivating performance keeps you transfixed on what eventually became the longest and most expensive manhunt in the FBI’s history. From shaking his fist at planes and chemtrails to threatening motocross bikers, there’s a comic undercurrent, which could have been explored in a similar fashion to the Nicolas Cage film, Army of One. While Copley has the versatility, Ted K remains more experimental in its approach, crafting a hypnotic film experience that while inconsistent at times, remains supremely watchable.
Using its soundtrack to sway between classical and synthesised music, this adds gravity with the sound design playing a major part in the ongoing disruption of peace. Moving from the wide-open spaces of its pastoral settings on location in Montana, Ted K’s visual aesthetic becomes much more claustrophobic against the urban environments. An authentic throwback, driven by a fascinating true story, mesmerising visuals and volatile lead performance, it’s easier to overlook this unconventional character portrait’s shortcomings.
The bottom line: Captivating