It all starts when we see a deranged man (Ben Kingsley) walking into a bar, sitting at the table of a traveling salesman and showing him a set of disturbing pictures. This rattles the salesman greatly, and after leaving the place in a rush and getting into his car, we see him get murdered by the mysterious man. Meanwhile, Mackelway (Aaron Eckhart) is arriving to the FBI offices in Albuquerque from Dallas, after getting transferred in a sort of demotion. He has unusual headaches and on his first day on the work sees an anonymous message on one of the reports, making references to these events.
Mackelway's first case involves the murder of the traveling salesman, and while he is trying to leave his past behind, involving charges for not following procedure in a high profile case, he has to deal with the anonymous person that communicates with him, the disdain of his peers and superiors, and a newly arrived partner: his ex-girlfriend.
There is some clarification when we find out that Benjamin O'Ryan, the murderer Mackelway is trying to find, is going after serial killers. But we have to wait way past the middle of this film for the story to make real sense. It is a shame, because once we make sense of what is going on, the experience improves drastically.
One of the few aspects of this movie that deserve undisputed praise it the performance of Kingsley, whose ability to convey the craziness of his character though his facial expressions is remarkable. I would really recommend you to find out exactly what this movie is about before attempting to watch the film. I don't want to include this information here to prevent spoiling it for those that do not want it. But, for those that would like to follow my advice, a good way of doing this is to watch the extra features beforehand.
Suspect Zero is, in my opinion, somewhat underrated. To me, it made perfect sense all along. It's a little confusing at first seeing conspicuously red-tinted images flashing buy out of nowhere, but it becomes clear pretty early on that the man being hunted is a remote viewer. Even if you aren't familiar with the concept of remote viewing, it's hard not to figure it out, so I'm not sure why some people seem to come away from this movie feeling totally lost. In a nutshell, remote viewing, which has absolutely been used by American intelligence and the FBI, allows the sensitive viewer to "see" things happening elsewhere, be they missile silos, enemy forces, or serial killers doing what serial killers do. Since Benjamin O'Ryan (Kingsley) can see the crimes, he can find the criminals. That's what he is doing now, taking out unidentified serial killers with just a little bit of vengeance. The big kahuna, though, is still out there - the killer he calls Suspect Zero. Suspect Zero has made a veritable cottage industry of abducting and killing kids in countless numbers all over the country. There's no discernible link between all of the missing kids, so know one even suspects that the world's foremost killer is out there operating with a free hand, nor would anyone believe that one man could claim literally hundreds of victims without getting caught. O'Ryan knows it, though - he has seen it.
The endgame, for whatever reason, involves Special Agent Mackelway (Aaron Eckhart), and O'Ryan is constantly faxing him cryptic clues and missing children's posters in an obvious attempt to draw the agent to him . Mackelway has something of a history, having taken the law into his own hands to some degree and, by so doing, letting a violent killer go free. As he gets deeper and deeper into this case, he begins having cryptic little visions and develops some kind of connection with the man he is searching for (troubling signs for an agent who's already had to go through an extensive psychological evaluation recently). It stands to reason that the whole gang will assemble at the very end -O'Ryan, Mackelway, and, of course, Suspect Zero himself - and that Mackelway will have to get there without much help from his disbelieving colleagues.
By and large, I think Suspect Zero is an excellent film. It's a thriller with a twist, an unusual story that plays out quite well. Unfortunately, it seems to take a shortcut or two on its way to a conclusion, leaving too much in the hands of fate or coincidence. It also has to go and give us two partners with a romantic history teaming up again - apparently, it's illegal to make a crime thriller without some kind of romantic subplot. Eckhart isn't bad, but he isn't completely convincing as he takes his character to the brink between insight and insanity. Besides his partner Fran (Carrie-Anne Moss), the rest of the characters barely emerge from the woodwork, especially Mackelways' supervisor (who doesn't even yell when he's upset with his rogue agent).
Despite a few minor faults, though, the unusual storyline of Suspect Zero and the excellent performance by Ben Kingsley carry the day, making this film stand out quite noticeably from others in the genre. Dark, gritty, and compelling, it's a film well worth watching, especially for those who harbor a fascination with serial killers.