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MANHUNT: UNABOMBER tells the story of the hunt for the deadliest serial bomber in history. FBI Agent Jim Fitzgerald (Sam Worthington) who pioneered the use of forensic linguistics to identify and capture Ted Kaczynski (Paul Bettany), the man who came to be known as the ''Unabomber'' faced an uphill battle against both Kaczynski and the bureaucracy of the UNABOM task force.
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The film chronicles Fitz’s dogged determination to discover the identity of the Unabomber and put him behind bars. Though his bosses had focused for nearly two decades on a profile of the Unabomber being an airline mechanic of low intelligence, Fitz looked at clues that point in another direction, specifically the language used in Kaczynski’s correspondence. He speculated that the bomber was highly intelligent, and used what came to be known as forensic linguistics to sharpen the FBI’s profile.
The film is a suspenseful procedural about the investigation. Kaczynski isn’t introduced until the second hour. Bethany plays him as unrepentant, clever, and devious, managing to infuse sympathy for the character while never glorifying his heinous deeds. The contest of wills between Fitz and Kaczynski is reminiscent of Vincent Bugliosi’s courtroom prosecution of Charles Manson for the Tate-Lo Bianco murders in “Helter Skelter” and the Clarice/Hannibal Lecter relationship in “Silence of the Lambs.” The contest of wills between two intelligent individuals, one representing law and order, the other evil, drives the narrative in the 8-part series.
The trick with a based-on-reality story like this is building and sustaining suspense, since the outcome is already known. Like “The People v. O.J. Simpson” and “Law and Order: The Menendez Murders,” “Manhunt: Unabomber” takes the viewers behind-the-scenes, showing how methodical the investigation proceeds and how obsessed Fitz is to stop the Unabomber. It’s the kind of story TV does best. By spreading out the tale into several parts, key episodes in the investigation can be explored thoroughly.
The series boasts an impressive supporting cast, including Jane Lynch (as Attorney General Janet Reno), Chris Noth, Jeremy Bobb, Jay Duplass, and Keisha Castle-Hughes.
Bonus materials on the widescreen 2-disc Blu-ray release include 3 behind-the-scenes featurettes — “Criminal Profiling,” “Who Is the Unabomber?” and “Deciphering the Manifesto” — and a trailer. A digital copy is enclosed.