Geeks rule in this adaptation of Keigo Higashono’s tense novel of the cat and mouse game between a physicist and a mathematician. Having read the book, I must say that I became more emotionally engaged with the movie, mainly thanks to the inspired casting, which at first glance seems all wrong…
Multitalented Masaharu Fukuyama and the lovely Ko Shibasaki
Masaharu Fukuyama is a phenomenon – actor, photographer, musician, composer – the list goes on, a true Renaissance man. But is he really the right choice for the brilliant physicist Manabu Yukawa? Yukawa is the star of these well loved Japanese novels, also known as ‘Detective Gallileo’ – or Garrireo, as it were. Masaharu’s youthful looks are not inappropriate, actually, and his own wide ranging interests probably help to give him the stature of a star science geek – but no matter, because it is a beautiful performance anyway.
Ko Shibasaki is oine of my favorite actresses. Who can forget her turn as the deadly Mitsuko in Battle Royale? Her other movies include The Sinking of Japan and Chakushin Ari (One Missed Call) as well as the TV series Detective Gallileo, also based on the books of Keigo Higashono. She’s set to appear in Keanu Reeves’ next movioe, 47 Ronin. In The Devotion of Suspect X, she plays a cop, Koaru Utsumi. Who? say those who read the book. Oh yes, Kusanagi is still there, but he has been relegated to a secondary role to Utsumi, whose passionate personality has better chemistry with Yukawa, I guess. No matter – again, the performance justifies the change.
Briefly, the story starts with a woman, Yasuko, and her daughter, who cannot escape the abuse of her former husband. After making a new life for themselves, he turns up again, and after he starts beating up on her daughter, Yasuko strangles him. Good riddance indeed, and this isn’t a plot spoiler, since the whole plot hangs on this incident. Their next door neighbour, a local high school math teacher called Ishigami, comes to their rescue, helps them dispose of the body, and provides a watertight alibi. Why? Is he an obsessive stalker, whose attentions will prove even more hard to bear than the dead husband?
Shin’ichi Tsutsumi as the genius mathematician Ishigami, doing sums in his head
Here again the choice of Shin’ichi Tsutsumi might seem like odd casting. Ishigami’s description in the book is closer to actor Dankan, who plays Yasuko’s suitor Mr. Kudo. Tsutsumi is actually a good looking man, and seems much too attractive for the character of a shy, awkward mathematics geek. But in fact the casting again was inspired – Tsutsumi acts from his pores, exuding the inner world of Ishigami with heart wrenching precision. Even if nothing else grabs you here, Ishigami will do it.
As his involvement and his motives unfold, we fall more under his spell – the scene in which he quietly contemplates damp condensation on the ceiling and runs a pattern with them in his head is etched with meaning on his beautiful expressive face – no, not quite the impassive Ishigami of the books, but film is a visual media and Shin’ichi Tsutsumi is an acting feast for the eyes. It is hard to believe this awkward character is the same divine man who befriended Shibasaki’s terrified Yumi in Chakusin Ari.
The Devotion of Suspect X might be a bit slow for some, as it is more about motivation than a who dunnit. In fact, we know who dunnit right from the start, but there is still an artful twist in the tail of the tale, and a glimpse into the human heart that will stay with you long after the credits roll.