Suspect X

Reviewed by: sukting

February 19, 2009

Rating: three

How long
2 hours

Produced by Fuji TV, "Suspect X" is based on hit series "Galileo". The show was, in turn, based on a best-selling mystery series penned by Keigo Higashino. It ran number one at the box office in 2008 in Japan for a month.

Manabu Yukawa (Masaharu Fukuyama) is a physicist in a university. He is nicknamed "Galileo" for being a genius and blessed with analytical abilities that even the police look up to. Yukawa's partner is a female rookie cop, Kaoru Utsumi (Kou Shibasaki). She often goes to him for help. It opens her eyes as he explains physics concepts to her – how a ship can be sunk using magnets and how explosions are formed.

She asks him about love. Be prepared to laugh to a breathless state by his answer. He attributes it to an equation. Annoyed, she ignores him. Manabu has never been interested in answering as this is a complicated topic. He often loves to leave to cops to settle other cases that need clarifications.

Yasuko Hanaoka (Matsuyuki Yasuko) opens a bento shop after her second divorce. She is an ex-bar hostess. She tries bringing up her only daughter, Masato, from her first marriage. Her neighbour, Tetsuya Ishigami (Shinichi Tsutsumi) is her regular customer. Her past catches up with her as her second ex-husband comes to harass her. He extorts money from her and even peeps at Masato who is going to change into her home clothes.

Unable to take it, Masato uses a glass ornament to hit his head. Both women kill him by strangling him with a wire cord of the electrical mat. Tetsuya hears the commotion and comes over. The police will never believe Yasuko for committing the crime alone as four hands are needed to kill the man. Both women are also unwilling to see each other go to jail. He promises to settle it for them.

A naked male body is discovered. He is strangled to death, his face pulverized beyond recognition, and his toes and fingers burned to a crisp. His identity is confirmed after a motel owner reports his disappearance and the room’s key is found on him. Tetsuya continues teaching his class although they are uninterested in the tedious steps that he shows on the board. Kaoru and her superior, Shunpei Kusanagi (Kazuki Kitamura), are assigned to the case. She is the only female in the case. The police face great difficulty in cracking the case. Thus, she seeks advice from Manabu.

Kaoru gets jealous that as usual, many female students turn up for his lecture. She is annoyed when his face lights up – the suspect is pretty? So does Shunpei who keeps stressing about it too. Manabu’s tone actually softens to offer them coffee to listen attentively to them.

Although Yasuko seems innocent to claim that they are watching a movie that night (2 Dec) and the wire cord is different, Kaoru’s instinct alerts her that she is guilty.

The two cops have turned up earlier than Yasato expected but Tetsuya isn’t stunned over it. Meanwhile, Tetsuya communicates with Yasuko from then on using a public telephone as he is afraid that his phone will be tapped.

Kaoru informs Manabu about her instinct and the two men laugh off her instinct to solve cases. Manabu finds it equally suspicious that she inserts the movie stubs into the movie programme. But it is still possible for a person to be split into two to appear at two places at the same time with a theory that he recites on the past. (All might turn giddy to see two Manabu’s teaching different formulas in front of the board.)

Someone must have taught her to do it. Why is the body found at the scene? Why are fingerprints found on the new bicycle? Why bother to steal a new one when an old one can be taken easily? If a killer is so flustered, how can he be calm to disfigure the victim? Manabu finds all these questions unanswered and everything seems too perfect.

There is no loophole and Manabu can’t explain the killer’s motive. He has faced tough opposition this time. After analyzing the case, Manabu suspects that the true genius behind everything is Tetsuya. Tetsuya happens to be Manabu's college friend whom he regards as a true mathematics genius. He comes to visit him, cooking up an excuse for him to solve a Math problem. Tetsuya is about to offer him food from Yasuko’s shop when he remembers it. So he keeps the chopsticks that have her shop label.

Manabu finds it a pity that he chose to become a high school teacher instead of being a university lecturer as he is very talented. Tetsuya chose to leave as he needs to take care of his dying mother then. Manabu falls asleep while waiting for the answer. Tetsuya opens his closet to get a blanket for him. There shows the wire cord as he closes it.

Manabu wakes up and is surprised that he comes up with the answer within 6 hours. This shows that he still has an alert mind after all. Both go to work and pass by a group of wanderers by the river. Tetsuya describes them as parts of a clock which will not change even though the world changes. Tetsuya suddenly envies Manabu for being youthful looking. Manabu is puzzled that he asks this question.

Kaoru asks if Tetsuya is the killer but Manabu rules out the possibility. As a mathematician, he will not want killing as an answer. Like Manabu, both men like equations. The two women could have approached him only after the killing and it is too late for him to do anything. (How right he is!)

Manabu appears at Tetsuya’s school, wishing to visit Yasuko’s shop. The two go to the shop and Manabu senses that Tetsuya looks jealous as Yasuko is approached by her ex-customer. Tetsuya knows that although Manabu is the impulsive type to make decisions, he will not just appear with no particular reason. He calls Yasuko to warn her to be careful. He also teaches Masato what to tell the police if they come.

Masato has another alibi – she has met her classmate at the cinema. The girl proves seeing the two women together and there loses the clue again. The ex-customer asks Yasuko out. Tetsuya seeks to take photos of them together. He sends her home and Tetsuya seems to look jealous when standing at the door. Elaborate bluffs, false testimonials, loopholes in logic - all begin to appear in Manabu's way as if intentionally placed as a challenge by Tsetsuya with mathematical brilliance.

Kaoru and Shunpei give Manabu a treat at a Sichuan restaurant. Both nearly go teary after tasting the spicy food but it is just right for Manabu as he enjoys it. Kaoru mentions that Tetsuya has applied for two days’ leave instead of a day’s leave. He has told her and Shunpei that he is ill for two days. He is in the midst of setting exam questions and he upholds the task of turning functions into formulas.

Manabu’s face changes upon knowing that. He demands to look at the attendance sheet but says that there is nothing wrong with it. He then charges out quickly. Manabu asks Tetsuya out but he is busy printing the photos out using his printer. Tetsuya invites him to go mountain climbing with him over the weekend. He then sends the photos to the man and he is shocked. He then shows Yasuko the photos. Yasuko thinks that she has faced a stalker and doesn’t want to get close to him anymore.

Manabu and Tetsuya sets off their expedition. Manabu’s stamina isn’t as good as Tetsuya’s and he lags behind. Tetsuya mentions that he may not have the chance to go mountain climbing again. He knows that Manabu is suspicious of him. Both men continue their climb and a snow storm arrives. Manabu nearly falls to the bottom of the mountain. Tetsuya walks very far ahead but returns for him. Both reach the top and Manabu never stops panting. However, he doesn’t regret this trip. (It is definitely a magnificent sight.)

Masato insists on answering Tetsuya’s call and Yasuko is stunned to know that this will be his final call. He has left them two letters. One is to teach them how to answer the police’s questions while the other must be destroyed after reading. He surrenders himself to the police, claiming to be the murderer who killed Yasuko’s husband out of jealousy. The photos also come to light.

Tetsuya’s letter brings tears to Yasuko’s eyes. He is about to kill himself on a fateful day when she appears at his doorstep with Masato and food that warms his heart. The two women often exchange greetings with him. Thus he doesn’t wish her to feel burdened by his decision. Her ex-customer seems to be a suitable man for her third marriage and he urges her to make use of this chance.

Manabu cannot concentrate at work after knowing this. Kaoru has never seen such a painful look on his face. She reminds him that he can’t keep it to himself. He has figured out what happened and confides in Kaoru, wanting her to let him handle the case. She is not to behave like a cop but to behave like his friend.

He approaches Yasuko, telling her the truth. She is equally taken aback. Tetsuya is about to be brought to the detention cell when Kaoru and Shunpei break the rules to allow Manabu to visit him. Manabu is hurt when Tetsuya comments that he has no friends.

(Spoilers! The below becomes too melodramatic for me to bear.)

Even though the murder weapons are all found in Tetsuya’s home, Manabu has figured out the sentence that Kaoru has transferred about him changing a formula to a function. No wonder he tells him that he will not get to go mountain climbing again. He assumes that Yasuko’s ex-husband is killed on 1 Dec. Tetsuya has bribed a wanderer to stay in the motel, wearing Yasuko’s ex-husband’s clothes. He then kills him at the field on 2 Dec after using a fire gun to burn his palms.

Tetsuya could have destroyed Yasuko’s ex-husband’s body, chopping it into pieces to dispose it. That is why he needed 2 days to get away from work. That is also why the two women have alibis by appearing at the cinema as the time is lax by a day to prove that they are not involved. If the police can’t recover the evidence, Yasuko will never be charged.

Manabu is tormented – he has never thought of him to kill someone because of a woman. Tetsuya keeps denying and pretends not to know what he says. Manabu then discloses that he has told Yasuko about it. When Tetsuya steps out the cell, he sees Yasuko surrendering herself.

She can’t gain happiness over his expense. Tetsuya has suppressed his feelings all along but wails aloud to release his emotions now before leading into the van.

One month later, Manabu sits on the bench where he befriended Tetsuya 10 years ago in the university. He saw Tetsuya coming up with his theorem and was impressed. Tetsuya had thought of him to be a Math student like him and was surprised to know that he is a Physics student. But, both turned out to be friends after that. Kaoru informs him that Yasuko has admitted to the crime but Tetsuya will not hear of it.

Manabu recalls Tetsuya’s words of him being youthful. He shakes his head – Tetsuya has never been bothered about his looks and this is the first time he is so conscious about it. He has detected that he is in love but never knew that it would destroy him. It might have been better if he hadn’t tried it at all. The fishermen manage to fish out the ornament that Masato used to hit Yasuko’s head. The glass covering is broken. (Please don’t tell me that the police ordered them to recover the body but they come up with this?)


It is battle of wits between the talented physicist and the genius mathematician. It provides a rare chance to see how two wonderful actors pit their skills against each other. Fukuyama Masaharu and Tsutsumi Shinichi are also dashing, with their towering heights. Although there are deliberate streaks of white on Tsuisumi’s hair to make him look slightly haggard, that does not spoil the enjoyment.

The first 10 minutes of this film is light comedy and filled with physics jargon. But it soon turns into a different story that has no relation to the start. This movie is too clear from beginning who the culprits are. I don’t really like this arrangement as it seems too simple on how they cover their tracks.

If you love a person, how much sacrifice you willing to make to protect her? It dwells a lot on Tetsuya’s love – he isn’t asking for anything in return to consider every step for Yasuko’s happiness. It becomes too predictable and kills all the suspense that it has in the beginning part of the film.

Fukuyama Masaharu and Shibasaki Kou's acting are fine initially but the focus is later shifted once it goes in the middle of the development. Kaoru almost disappears completely while Manabu’s inner feelings are only touched on the surface. I hardly feel the struggle and hesitation that he is tortured but Masaharu presents Manabu’s witty and cheery nature well with adequate eloquence that leaves all tongue-tied.

The supporting cast, Tsutsumi Shinichi and Matsuyuki Yasuko, are incredible. They are upstaged by the two. Tsutsumi has maintained his standard as in ‘Good Luck’. He is perfect to make me feel sorry with his character even though he kills for a bad cause although the wailing scene can be over the top.

Matsushima Yasuko is steady although she tends to overact in parts to deliver Yasuko’s sorrow and fear. As supporting cast, they get more screen-time than Kou and almost the same as Fukuyama Masaharu. They should be labelled as the real main cast. It focused on the human side of them. Kou is obviously neglected in screen presence and acting. I hardly find any ‘fire’ in her working attitude. No wonder her superiors look down on her and demand her to get tea ready for them!

I have not watched the drama as yet so I can’t comment which is better. Although I learned Physics and Mathematics till ‘A’ level, the formulas the two actors present to us make me see stars. It is a serious and deep movie. But as an avid follower of many cop dramas, I find that this suspense movie isn’t as thrilling as it is reputed to be. I feel short-changed when it comes to the ending. Maybe the Japanese are too fond of getting sympathy from the audience and it is about time to be more positive.

Sukting’s ratings :

On acting : ***1/2 (Scale of 5)

On story : *** (Scale of 5)

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