ZODIAC is director David Fincher's finest film to date. All of the preparatory exercises in violence and horror he served so well in such films as FIGHT CLUB and SEVEN now are even more terrifying because of the manner in which he internalizes the events of the infamous Zodiac killer of the 1960s and 1970s and allows us to see how the murders and lack of proof of the perpetrator destroyed the personal lives of those bound to reveal Zodiac's identity. The story of course is true, as documented in Robert Graysmith's book (adapted extremely well for the screen by James Vanderbilt), and the history is so well known that rehashing it in a review is pointless. But on to the production.
Filmed in the Bay area the film has that peculiar light known to artists of the region but rarely captured so well as it is here by cinematographer Harris Savides: the sunlight (when visualized is brilliant and the night portions are dank not only form the seeming constant rain but also form the seediness of the story's message. The acting is of the highest caliber: newspaper cartoonist Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal, in a standout role), police inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo, in one of his finest performances), news writer Paul Avery (Robert Downey, Jr.), Melvin Belli (Brian Cox), Inspector William Armstrong (Anthony Edwards), Graysmith's long-suffering wife Melanie (Chloë Sevigny), down to the more minor roles are all pitch perfect.
What makes this film work so well is the emphasis on the human aspect of how violence, especially random and uncontrolled, alters the psyches of people. The breakdown from the stress of the fruitless and frustrating investigation by each of the primary characters is heart wrenching. How much of this is actor driven by such talented pros and how much is due to Fincher's directorial abilities is probably a moot point. The very long unwinding of this struggle (158 minutes) becomes almost unbearably tense. While the Added Features of this set open windows of information that delve more deeply into this unsolved horror story, the film still stands solidly on its own without the added accoutrements. This is a very fine film that is worthy of the many awards that are dangling in space at the moment. Grady Harp, January 08
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Grady Harp (gradyharp)
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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Closer in spirit to a police procedural than a gory serial-killer flick, David Fincher'sZodiacprovides a sleek, armrest-gripping re-invention of the crime film. It surveys the investigation of the Zodiac killings that terrorized the San Francisco Bay area in the late -60-early -70s; Zodiac not only killed people, but cultivated a Jack the Ripper aura by sending icky letters to the newspapers and daring readers to solve coded messages. But the film's focus isn't on the killer. We follow the reporters and detectives whose lives are taken over by the case, notably an addictive crime writer (a sartorially splendid Robert Downey Jr.), an awkward editorial cartoonist (Jake Gyllenhaal), and a hard-working cop (Mark Ruffalo). Fincher and his brilliant cinematographer Harris Savides are deft at capturing the period feel of the city, without laying on the seventies kitsch, and James Vanderbilt's script doles out its big moments to major and minor characters alike. Fincher's confidence is infectious; the movie glides through its myriad details with such dexterity that even the blind alleys and red herrings seem essential. The well-chosen cast includes unexpected people popping up all over: Anthony Edwards as a lunch-bucket homicide cop; Charles Fleischer as a mysterious suspect; Elias Koteas and Donal Logue as small-town policemen whose districts are hit by Zodiac; Chloe Sevigny as Gyllenhaal's sweet-natured wife; Brian Cox as the media-friendly lawyer Melvin ...