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It’s hard to envisage a psychological thriller that captures the pursuit and tension surrounding a serial killer at large without Zodiac coming to mind, such is the masterpiece directed by David Fincher. To do so though is to cast Boston Strangler in the wrong light for it’s main drive is not just about unearthing the identity of one of America’s most notorious serial killers, but also the outdated attitudes of the role of women during the 1960s, which this true crime story is set.

Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game) is charged with taking on the more-than impressive, real life investigative journalist, Loretta McLaughlin who is the first reporter to connect the Boston Strangler murders. Accompanying her at the Record American newspaper is colleague and confidante, Jean Cole (Carrie Coon – Ghostbusters: Afterlife). Together they make a formidable pair where one comes with inexperience but a strong will and instinct to uncover the truth, the other is a wise figure who knows the “rules” of the industry and how to ensure that they can work within the frame of sexism and still assert authority and eventual respect.

Both McLaughlin and Cole face the fear of an unsettled world, where a mysterious killer has been murdering women of all ages in the American town, but are soon persecuted by unknown assailants through phone calls and letters. Is this to deter them from uncovering the truth or a means of repression because of their sex? It’s evident that there are some men in position of authority who find the concept of a woman in the workplace abhorrent, and the fact that they happen to be proficient in their job only frustrates them further. 

So, in this minefield of arrogance McLaughlin and Cole  must trust in their own abilities and unite to find that truth. For Cole this is a tried and tested road that she is used to traversing, but for McLaughlin who has a family at home, the adjustment is one she finds difficult to adapt to and must answer the question of why she must bow to the pressures of society an have to prove herself in the face of adversity.

To amplify their oppressed position, Writer/Director Matt Ruskin has steadfast actors in Alessandro Nivola (“Amsterdam”), David Dastmalchian (“Dune”), Morgan Spector (“Homeland”), Bill Camp (“Joker”), and Academy Award® winner Chris Cooper (“Adaptation”) but this is not to detract from Knightley and Coon who rise to meet the more than worthy women they portray on screen. Their performances are both gripping and riddled with emotion throughout the film’s narrative, providing the hook to lure the audience through to the end.

The Prognosis:

This is not just a psychological thriller based on the true crimes of the Boston Strangler, but more importantly, the tale of two women who must stand strong in their beliefs and abilities to uncover the truth in a world dominated by the male perspective. 

Knightley and Coon deliver equally compelling performances, which is vital in casting Ruskin’s message and vision across. At times the story can trudge along a little, but thanks to the strength of the female leads, there’s enough to keep the audience locked in to also find the truth behind the murders.

  • Saul Muerte

Boston Strangler is streaming March 17 exclusively on Disney+ under the Star banner