Review: Zodiac (2007)

Zodiac

Zodiac

Rating



Director

David Fincher

Screenplay

James Vanderbilt (Book: Robert Graysmith)

Length

158 min.

Starring

Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Robert Downey Jr., Brian Cox, John Carroll Lynch, Chlo Sevigny, Ed Setrakian, John Getz, Philip Baker Hall

MPAA Rating

R (for some strong killings, language, drug material and brief sexual images.)

Buy/Rent Movie

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Poster

Source Material

Review

Intensely detailed and wonderfully acted, Zodiac details the rise and pursuit of the famed Zodiac serial killer.

The crime was never solved, but the case was among the most celebrated of its day. San Francisco police detectives paired with newspaper journalists attempted to uncover the identity of and bring justice to the man responsible for killing more than a dozen people.

Jake Gyllenhaal leads an all-star cast as Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle, who becomes obsessed with the enigmatic puzzles submitted by the Zodiac killer. His attempts to tease investigators with a crime they might never be able to commit is one of the fascinating aspects of the film. James Vanderbilt’s adaptation of Graysmith’s book keeps the suspense high in a case that played itself out in the media and is notoriously unsolved.

Robert Downey Jr. plays Paul Avery, a reporter at the Chronicle who develops an unhealthy interest in the case that leads him to some increasingly bizarre behavior until he’s forced to resign from the paper. Graysmith keeps it together, but not enough for the women he marries early on in the case’s development.

Exploring the crimes from the police side are Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards as Inspectors Toschi and Armstrong who each become burnt out on the case and hope that it will go away, which it would if not for Graysmith’s incessant nagging.

Fincher’s direction of Zodiac is tight and controlled. It is one of his most refined works, contrasting sharply with the enjoyable, but frenetic films Fight Club and Seven. Here, he delicately recreates the San Francisco of the late 1960s. From the production design to the costuming, the film exudes a feeling of realism that is often absent from other period dramas.

Gyllenhaal, Downey Jr. and Ruffalo are all exceptionally well cast and deliver amazing performances. The rest of film’s more notable names, Philip Baker Hall, Brian Cox and Chloë Sevigny, ably support the leads. Gyllenhaal is the weakest of the bunch, which is not to degrade his work here. He still creates a credible character, but there are some touches of modernism to it that make it feel insincere. His obsession late in the film borders on the cartoonish, but that plays perfectly well into his character’s profession.

The film’s one major weakness is its length. Two-and-a-half hours feels more like three-and-a-half. The plot progresses rather slowly without the more modern rapid-fire editing that might have otherwise accompanied the film. While its lack of brevity helps convey the various facets of the murders and the resultant enthrallment of investigators, it ultimately fatigues the viewer. And although we know that we cannot expect an adequate solution, since none was ever reached and the crime was never officially solved, we can’t help but wish we could have a slightly stronger resolution.

If you’re unfamiliar with the case, Zodiac provides a fascinating entry into the legends and evidence of the incidents. However, don’t rely on the film to present every fact or point of view possible. Zodiac may be entertaining and intriguing, but it’s far from being an unquestionable source of information.

Review Written

January 30, 2008

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