Boston Strangler Film Review, Keira Knightley vs. the Infamous Serial Killer and 1960s Misogony

Here’s the thing about the Boston Strangler. We all know the notorious nickname of one of America’s first well-known serial killers. He predates the term “serial killer.” What many people don’t really know for this alleged solved crime is who the man responsible for the killings was.

This isn’t like the Zodiac Killer whose identity remains unsolved. It has been mostly accepted as to who the Boston Strangler actually was. However, as the Keira Knightley film Boston Strangler correctly chronicles, there are some doubts.

I’ve waited a few weeks to watch this one. Not greatly hyped but well reviewed, what would I think of it?

What was good about Boston Strangler

There were definitely some vibes of David Fincher’s Zodiac. Although not quite up to par with that film, especially after the second viewing of it when I enjoyed it much more than the first, I do feel like the same could be true for Boston Strangler. Does anyone else watch a movie and try to take in too much at once only to feel like they’ve missed out? I definitely feel like I would enjoy this movie a lot more the second time around. It’s like a Quentin Tarantino movie where you finish watching and think “where was all of the action?” only to watch years later and appreciate the dialogue and story.

Anyway, Boston Strangler isn’t full of action. It’s told from the perspective of two female reporters, played by Keira Knightley and Carrie Coon, during a time when women didn’t cover crime in the newspapers. It’s also, obviously, a time when newspapers were still relevant. As much of the story is about their place in society as women during a time when they were expected to care for the kids and only leave the house for groceries. It wasn’t the most interesting thing to see but it didn’t hurt the film.

The angle worked and it’s pretty much the only thing the filmmakers could have done with this story. Because so much of the case remains unknown, telling it from the perspective of the people on the lawful side was the only way to do it without fictionalizing too much. I wouldn’t have minded a more fictional version, though. 

Well shot, well paced, and a film that actually gets more interesting near the final act, Boston Strangler ended up being exactly what I thought it would be.

What could have made Boston Strangler better

This movie would have reached a whole new level if the focus on the conspiracy was much greater. The first seventy-five percent of the film is pretty simplistic in terms of two reporters trying to uncover information on the killer’s identity. Near the end, we’re hit with a gut punch on an alternative theory I’ll let you watch to find out if you don’t already know.

What made Fincher’s Zodiac such a memorable movie was the mystery behind it. We even get a scene where Knightley’s character faces a similar situation as Jake Gyllenhaal’s did in Zodiac when face-to-face with a suspect and only one exit to bolt toward for their safety. I kind of wish this film introduced the conspiracy aspect a little earlier. It may have been a lot different yet a far more interesting dive into a historic crime spree.

The film definitely could have used more urgency and intensity. Other than some brief moments, the danger seemed too distant from the characters.

Is Boston Strangler worth watching?

You aren’t wasting your time with this one. I can see how some true crime fans might be a little bored with it because there is nothing groundbreaking. It’s a good enough film on its own and I believe even better if you aren’t familiar with any aspects of the crimes. It’s not overly violent with only a few quick scenes of the crimes. This is more of an investigative film and it works well.

Overall Score: 7 out of 10

For context, I’d probably give my first viewing of Zodiac a 7 out of 10 as well. After watching it years later, I think I would bump it up to 9 out of 10. Boston Strangler might not get quite there but upon a second viewing, I strongly believe I’d move it to 8 out of 10. This is a good movie that doesn’t waste the audience’s time.

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