Few film debuts were more memorable than Aaron Eckhart’s role as a high-functioning sociopath with a smooth line and a winning smile in Neil LaBute’s IN THE COMPANY OF MEN. He followed that by playing, with equal believability, a schlubby patsy in LaBute’s second film, YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS. In person, he’s funny, charming, and not above trying to turn the tables on the person interviewing him. When we talked on August 13, 2004 (a Friday), about his new film, SUSPECT ZERO, the chat started with what made that film so creepy, and then, inevitably, turned to his relationship, professional and personal, with LaBute.
My hunch is that people will either adore or despise SUSPECT ZERO. Its a film that doesnt play by the rules, but does pack an enormous wallop that starts in the first scene and doesnt let up for a second. This twisted tale of good and evil, right and wrong, will discomfit the tidy illusion of safety that gets us through our lives along with that other tidy illusion, that we are somehow in control of what happens to us.
Aaron Eckhart is Thomas Mackelway, a disgraced FBI agent on his last legs starting over in the backwater of New Mexico. We know hes been through the wringer from the enormous bottle of aspirin he pulls out of his briefcase his first day on the new job. He barely has time to settle into his new desk and recover from his introduction to the local specialty, Frito pie, before he catches his first case. This, of course, is not just any case, but a ritual murder, with the car placed precisely on the state line between New Mexico and Arizona, and with one eyelid removed from the victim. Whats more, Mac starts getting a series of cryptic faxes that point to a serial killer whose victims may or may not number in the hundreds.
SUSPECT ZERO is a thriller that really does keep you guessing until the very last shot, which answers many questions while raising one or two others. Challenging, infuriating, hate it or love it, it has the distinction of being unforgettable.