“Ted K” is a crime drama film telling the story of America’s most infamous terrorist, Ted Kaczynski. Written and directed by Tony Stone, the film presents the thoughts and actions of Kaczynski since the time he abandoned society and started living on his own in a remote cabin in the woods in Montana. Driven by an outstanding performance by Sharlto Copley as Ted and with a reasonably gripping plot, “Ted K” ultimately becomes an exciting but ineffective watch as it fails to present anything new and often loses itself in meaningless visual images.
‘Ted K’ Plot Summary
With a scrolling script at the beginning, the film introduces Ted Kaczynski, who was once a mathematical genius, having attended Harvard at the age of sixteen and subsequently earning a Ph.D. in mathematics. But after only a year of practicing as a professor, Ted could take it no longer and decided to stay as far away from modern society as possible, in a cabin in the American wilderness; it is these years of his life that the film focuses on.
With modern society catching up, though, Ted finds it difficult to live amongst the loud motor sounds of snowmobiles that a family in his neighborhood often uses. One day, as the family leaves, Ted breaks down a side of their home, enters the building looking for the snowmobiles, and destroys them with an ax. He prefers living a primitive life, hunting and gathering in the forest for his own food, as well as collecting his own water, as his cabin has no running water or electricity. He is immensely disturbed by the sounds of airplanes and jets flying over the woods, for he believes every sort of modern technology is killing nature and, subsequently, the planet. As he cycles to the nearest library, he passes a saw-mill which takes down trees and makes a business out of them, and while returning, he witnesses a huge harvester vehicle, with chains tied on its wheels for better grip, felling trees in the forest.
All of these things tire Ted, and he has always wanted to fight back, and he is now more resolute in action as he cuts down an electricity pole, and his visits to the library are for a very specific reason—to get hold of the addresses of bigshots and owners of technological companies. Out of his desire to strike back at modern society, Ted starts making bombs, but is not happy with their small effect. His fight is not just against technology but also against human romance and love, and against women to a large extent.
In a phone call with his mother, with whom he does not keep contact other than calling her up asking for money, Ted complains about how his parents had pushed him totally towards academia, which resulted in his inexperience with women in life. When he starts working at the local lumber mill for money, he is soon thrown out for making sexist comments against the woman who runs the mill. As a way to get back, Ted returns to the mill one evening and destroys the machinery there. After some time, he is now able to make a bomb with far more destructive potential and decides to use it against society. But Ted’s plan is unique in that he does not intend to go to a place to bomb it physically, but instead wants to send it by mail in the form of a parcel that would blast whenever it is opened.
The Rantings of an Anti-social Maniac
Ted goes to a nearby city to try out his plan. He rents a motel room and shaves his long-grown beard to change his usual appearance. He then calmly walks out, puts the parcel with the bomb inside in a mailbox, and then goes to a computer store, a place that he almost considers his arch-nemesis. He gets to know the owner and decides to harm him somehow. He starts making another bomb inside the hotel room as the news of his first bombing is now being shown on the television. Knowing that the police would be on the lookout for him, Ted alters his appearance some more. He now sports a mustache and smashes his nose against a concrete block to change its structure. One morning, he walks up to the computer store, spots the owner’s car in the parking lot, and casually places a parcel bomb at its doorway, which the owner soon opens and is killed by the explosion. Without Ted’s knowledge, though, a woman had witnessed the whole matter from one of the nearby buildings. Eighteen months later, Ted has now descended more into his madness. He now tries to shoot down helicopters and airplanes that fly over the woods.
One day, while assisting the library with book organization, he believes he has met a beautiful woman named Becky, who expresses interest in him, only to realize he has been imagining her; this is the first of many times Ted imagines her and has sweet and loving conversations with her. He had an altercation with some dirt-bikers who were passing by his property, and this is probably the first red flag against him from his neighbors. Ted hears speeches by the Earth First! Group, a radical and anarchist environmental advocacy group, then visits one of their conferences in Missouri and hears their leader, Dave Foreman, speak. Inspired by this movement, Ted sits down to write his own manifesto against modern industry, technology, and all government institutions, titled “Industrial Society and its Future.” In writing, he poses as a group of radicals, as opposed to a single one, and also directly talks of violent acts.
Meanwhile, his mail bombings continue, including the one to United Airlines’ president, Percy Wood, who had been severely injured by it. With his maniacal belief and ego growing every day, Ted sends his manifesto to The New York Times and The Washington Post, saying that if they did not publish it, he would continue to harm and kill more people. The latter newspaper complies with it, and Ted feels himself to be on top of the world.
At the very beginning of “Ted K,” the film lays down its proud claim of having been shot precisely in the area where Ted Kaczynski had built his cabin and wrote his propaganda, and it seems to be driven a lot by this premise. There is hardly any new perspective that the film provides on the Unabomber case, other than just sticking with the side of the maniac. Despite this latter case, it does not seem to be able to present the perspective of Kaczynski, for the man was perhaps too complex and difficult to comprehend. Having turned himself away from almost every facet of social life, Ted was also opposed to almost every other ideological theory, including communism, socialism, fascism, Nazism, and so on. His manifesto, from which the film (seemingly proudly) extracts its script, seems like thoughts for the protection of nature on the surface, but soon appears to be gibberish, written to fuel personal anger and frustration.
‘Ted K’ Ending: What Happens To The Unabomber?
Some time after an excerpt of his manifesto is published in the popular news periodicals, Ted receives a letter from his brother David, saying that he wants to visit him. A few days later, the FBI tracks Kaczynski down and arrests him at his cabin; Kaczynski is sentenced to life in prison for killing three people and injuring twenty-two others. It is revealed that it was David who had led the FBI to Ted after he saw his brother’s writing published. The film concludes with a shot of Ted’s current residence, a supermax prison compound in Colorado, and claims that this was the “largest manhunt in FBI history.”
It is sometimes easy to question the need for “Ted K” as a film, particularly because of the already widespread adaptations of the Unabomber case in popular culture. In many senses, the Netflix documentary “Unabomber: In His Own Words” provides a wider and more in-depth perspective on the matter without the potential to sometimes seem to take the side of Kaczynski (that sometimes seems to be happening in “Ted K”). The film has numerous fantasy and imaginative sequences, which are mostly visually sharp and flashy, but have no effect whatsoever on the narrative. They seem pretentious at best and appalling at worst. Copley’s performance as Kaczynski and the fact-based plot are the only points of interest in an otherwise mediocre film.
“Ted K” is a 2022 Biopic Crime Drama film directed by Tony Stone.