Normally, a small, "Seven"-ish thriller that barely made a ripple at the box office would not seem entirely promising to me. However, those involved with "Suspect Zero" made me quite a bit more eager to see if the film was simply a case of a strong thriller getting overlooked. The film was written by Zack Penn ("X-Men 2" and his own cult picture, "Incident at Loch Ness") and Billy Ray ("Shattered Glass", which was one of my favorite films of last year.) The film was directed by E. Elias Merhige, who was also at the helm of the acclaimed "Shadow of the Vampire". At one point, Tom Cruise was even interested in starring in the film.
The film focuses on Benjamin O'Ryan (Ben Kingsley), who was previously involved in a government project where he helped solve crimes by being able to visualize events happening far away. Meanwhile, FBI agent Thomas Mackelway (Aaron Eckhart) has been demoted to New Mexico after screwing up a major case. He's soon joined by an ex, Fran Kulok (Carrie-Anne Moss) - it's another case of ex's having to work together, and it's fairly stale. He finds clues at a crime scene where O'Ryan was the attacker, and soon enough, he's getting messages from O'Ryan, who has snapped, but claims that his crimes are leading the agents to a bigger target.
The film doesn't exactly manage the kind of suspense that it could have for a few reasons: first off, Eckhart isn't exactly right for the role, and his performance is too bland to gain much interest in the character. Moss doesn't do much better, as there's not much to the character and, as a result, the performance comes off as seeming a bit wooden. The dialogue is generally fine, but the dialogue exchanges between the Moss and Eckhart characters is very mediocre, which doesn't help the fact that the two already lack chemistry. Kingsley is creepy in his scenes, but doesn't say much. Merhige manages some creepy atmosphere, but the problem is that there's just not much energy to the picture, which is weighed down by the lead performances and the film's consistently incredibly somber nature.
Aside from all that, the film simply feels too familiar (of course, no one at the office believes Eckhart's character), despite its "psychic" angle. The film has a good cast, but the dialogue and screenplay in general could ave used some more work, and the pacing and energy of the film are too sluggish at times.
VIDEO: "Suspect Zero" is presented by Paramount in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is reflective of the varying techniques used in the filming process, and the overall presentation is rather good. Sharpness and detail are mostly first-rate, aside from some minor wide shots that look slightly softer than the rest.
Some slight instances of edge enhancement were present, but no pixelation or print flaws were spotted. Some grain is occasionally visible, but this appears to be an intentional element of the cinematography. Colors are mostly rather muted, but occasional bright colors show through - the film presents colors accurately, with nice saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: Despite not offering a lot of action, "Suspect Zero" does use the surrounds fairly well at times for some effective ambience and creepy sound effects. Much of the film is dialogue-driven and forward-oriented when it comes to audio, but occasionally, the sound design opens up quite nicely. Audio quality is first rate, with well-recorded and crisp sound effects and dialogue.
EXTRAS: The DVD offers a commentary from E. Elias Merhige, the film's director. There's also a 30-minute, 4-part featurette on "remote viewing", the phenomenon in the movie. Finally, we get the film's internet trailer, other Paramount previews, a demonstration of "remote viewing" and an alternate ending.
Final Thoughts: "Suspect Zero" is an average thriller with some effective moments. The movie is a little cliched and some of the lead performances are very average, but genre fans may want to try a rental. Paramount's DVD offers fine audio/video quality and a nice helping of supplements.
The Film ** 1/2