reviewed by Andrew James
Zodiac is based off the best selling book by Robert Graysmith (Gyllenhaal) in which he recounts the timeline, facts, rumors and his own opinions of the Zodiac killer's spree, that throughout three different decades, murdered several people in the Northern California area. The killer sends several letters to the police and to the press. These letters claim responsibility for some murders that they know Zodiac perpetrated and a few others that he just claimed responsibility for. The police and reporters try frantically for months and years to piece together the clues and figure out who this killer is before he strikes again... and again.
On the surface, this is what Zodiac seems to be about. But as we travel through the timeline of events, we soon realize that the story is really about the toll this investigation takes upon everyone involved. The stress and the frsutration felt by everyone from the cops to the press to their families and to some extent the people. It shows us that the poilce are real people with limits and boundaries.
The cast: great as always. Is there really anything I can say to convince you, if you're not already convinced, that Downey Jr. is likely the best actor of this generation? Though his part is smaller compared to the main characters played fantastically by Mark Ruffalo and Gyllenhaal. Besides thes three names, everytime you look at the screen will be someone you recognize; rom Brian Cox to Chloe Sevigny to Donal Logue. Though you might not know these names, you know the face. Two hours into the movie, you'll see someone new on screen and think to yourself, "oh, he's in this!? Cool."
What drives this film and keeps it going, besides the great character acting, is the intrigue we have into the human psyche. Especially that of a deranged killer who seems to have no motive other than to toy with the police using strange codes and depraved threats of killing children and babies. We're forced to feel as helpless and confused as all of the protagonists as we ponder all the evidence and try to piece together all of the strange clues that we're given. In that way, this is nothing more than a good murder mystery. But it's so odd and maddening that we can't help feel extra-involved.
There is very little intensity in the movie as far as action or suspense goes. There are one or two scenes that begin to flirt with this type of style, but quickly goes nowhere and we're back to looking at clues and paperwork or a work related discussion between the cops and the press.
Fincher's unique style is very present here with one or two absolutely gorgeous shots and style techniques that I noticed instantly. Several films and books have been made previously covering, or at least inspired by the Zodiac's infamy. Though none have covered it as deeply and as thoroughly and for that matter as realistically as Zodiac. For better or worse (mostly better) this is a period film and the deatails that went into making this movie take place in the 70's is astonishing. If you can find one clue throughout the film to tip you off that this is actually 2007, I'd be impressed.
Though probably the best film I've seen in 2007 to date, I don't think Zodiac can be defined as a must-see film; though it's certainly worth the trip and the money to see it in a theater. LOTS of big names, a great premise and story that'll keep you guessing. It gives us pretty much everything that movies were invented for in the first place. This isn't to say that there aren't some holes and some lingering questions I have, but these faded quickly with my captivation into the details of the story and its inner-workings. An enjoyable film that works well for what it's trying to accomplish.
More about the Zodiac Killer
IMDb.com - full cast and crew
FLIXSTER PROFILE for Zodiac