If you want to kill a lot of people, there’s no better place to do it than in a hospital. That’s the more-than-a-bit disturbing notion at the heart of Scandi noir director Tobias Lindholm’s (Borgen) compellingly serial-killer drama. It features a creepily off-kilter Eddie Redmayne as an American nurse secretly murdering patients in a New Jersey infirmary and an equally on-form Jessica Chastain as the colleague who slowly gets wise to him.
That The Good Nurse is all spun faithfully from a true story only adds to the disquiet. Redmayne’s Charles Cullen – dubbed the ‘Angel of Death’ IRL – killed dozens of patients during his career as an ICU nurse, spiking their drips with insulin and then reappearing at his victim’s bedsides as crash teams struggled to resuscitate.
Bringing some light to this bleak scenario is Amy Loughren, the nurse who went from friend and colleague to amateur sleuth. Played by Chastain, she’s a frail but dogged figure, whose waning heart is a ticking timebomb and whose health insurance doesn’t kick in for months. She has to work and perversely, it’s Cullen who helps her limp towards the finish line.
Redmayne is up there with Richard Attenborough in 10 Rillington Place as a terrifyingly mundane embodiment of evil
In some ways, Redmayne’s psychopathic Cullen is a secondary villain here: a pathogen allowed to spread through a broken, capitalist health system. How he got away with it for so long, rather than why he did it, is the preoccupation of a pointed screenplay by 1917 writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Gone Girl’s Kim Dickens is the hissable hospital administrator trying to cover it all up.
Redmayne layers his character’s chilling inner darkness with an overt caring side that somehow makes him even creepier. It’s a performance embroidered with fidgety micro-gestures: the camera slowly crawls in as he watches another victim flatlining, craning in from the corner of the hospital bay like a kind of curious velociraptor. He’s right up – or rather, down – there with Richard Attenborough in 10 Rillington Place as the most mundane embodiment of evil.
In UK cinemas Oct 19. Streaming on Netflix worldwide Oct 26.