There's nothing quite like a mystery. Lately, we have gotten a lot of films involving investigative puzzles. (`The Davinci Code,' `Inside Man,' and `National Treasure,' come to mind.) Such is the case with `Zodiac,' except this film is a true-to-life crime story about a serial killer who stalked victims in Vallejo and San Francisco, CA starting in 1969. It was unprecedented at the time because the police success rate was good until then, and the "Summer of Love" was a not-too-distant memory. Gripping at times, the whole movie becomes an illuminating account of heinous crimes by a clever killer who managed to slip out of investigators hands for years.
Starting in Vallejo a mysterious hooded stranger stalks a teenage couple who are parked at Lovers' Lane on the Fourth of July. In a separate car he stops by and harasses them briefly before returning to the scene. Using a gun with a flashlight attached, he mercilessly shoots and kills both of them in the car. There are other similar acts that follow scattered from that first murder, but he refuses to remain completely anonymous. Thriving on publicity, he calls the police to announce his crimes--briefly, but precisely identifying his cruel acts with his victims. He also sends letters to `The San Francisco Chronicle' with code work meant for them to decipher. Similar confidence appears as he announces their cruel fate to loved ones and sends letters with no code, written in handwriting hard to trace. Nicknamed "Zodiac" he terrorizes the people of California, leaving clues like a morbid real-life Riddler. Having skeletons in his closet and a fascination for the short story, "The Most Dangerous Game," Zodiac remained mysterious, yet committed to his mayhem.
Most of the drama zeroes in of the investigation, which is two fold. For 'The San Francisco Chronicle' columnist, Paul Avery (Robert Downey, Jr.) and political cartoonist, Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) are at odds with one another, but see eye to eye enough to share drinks and some of the investigation together. In another part of town, Inspector Dave Tocchi (Mark Ruffalo) tries to piece it all together. He's smart and thorough, but has many difficulties. As the years go by, we see suspects come and go and how little pieces of the puzzle fit together to find a composite portrait. Obviously, it is not a labor of love, given the scope and energy required for the project, but one of the ironies of the story is Graysmith's persistence with the case. Having an inquisitive and ambitious nature himself, he doesn't have the sensibility to throw in the towel.
`Zodiac' is not only fascinating, but is laid-back enough to give us a true-to-life drama. All of the actors only magnify the account by their grasp of the humanness of their characters. The three stars Gyllenhaal, Downey, and Ruffalo especially keep it real. Thanks to director David Fincher and screenwriter James Vanderbilt, we are transported to a troubled time and place with expert detail. It is suspenseful at times, but the understatement along with some old newsreels only adds to the authenticity. Their weariness and the problems they face make it all the more human. Both journalists grapple with ambition while they juggle their responsibilities and their personal lives. Both Paul and Robert are contacted by the killer and the repercussions quietly take their toll. 'Zodiac' excels at method and execution, retracing the steps of ordinary people trying to solve an extraordinary crime.
4 Stars out of 4 David Fincher's Zodiac is not about a killer but what surrounds a killer. Most of the film is addressed through nuanced, subtle, and ponderous banter about characters trying to connect-the-dots but always drawing square circles. The Zodiac Killer was a tease; he got what he wanted - infamy, power, and control - and regardless of his motives, he got away with his killings. Zodiac, therefore, punishes our expectations: we sit through this almost … more
I will probably get excessively noogied over the internet for saying this, but I didn't think Zodiac was all that great a movie. I tried really hard to like it, but I just didn't like it as much as I was assured I would. Don't get me wrong, I still liked it a bit, I just don't think it's worth all the eighties and nineties it's been getting on RT. I knew absolutely nothing about the case of the Zodiac Killer before viewing this film, but I found the case to be quite interesting … more
Pros: great pacing, good acting ensemble Cons: none for me The Bottom Line: “We Shall Fear Nothing Demand The Impossible Dream Your Destiny Defy The Logic Of Alphabets I Slayed The King Of The Wolves Nothing Is Impossible” ~Wolfchild Speech This was kind of like sending Clark Kent, without his alter ego, off to fight evildoers. You couldn’t … more
I watched a film today, oh boy About a quiet man who wrote a book And though the book did rather well No one had time for laughs They saw the photographs Of people shot dead in their cars They didn't know at first the killer's name A group of letters soon appeared He said he'd killed them all Nobody was really sure if he was just leading them on I saw a film today, … more
The SF Chronicle reported that DNA from saliva under a postage stamp has cleared Arthur Leigh Allen, the favorite suspect in San Francisco's most celebrated serial murder mystery. Artie Allen may or may not be gratified - he died, after all, twelve years ago - but I find the news disquieting. Though there's no reason for the cops to have my DNA on file, I've long been expecting suspicion to shine my way. The profile fits. I moved to the Bay Area in 1968, in time for the first killing at the pumping … more
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 … more
Pros: Mood and cinematography Cons: Weak story that went on for far too long The Bottom Line: I like Fincher and his mood-making is good here, but it is the only thing, so I cannot recommend it. Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. David Fincher is in my relatively short list of favorite directors despite his rather small list of films to date. He is a … more
David Fincher knows how to go straight to the bone, whether that be by grisly effects or wearing down the psyches of his audience. In ZODIAC he traces the very long investigation of the serial killer in the 1960s and 1970s in the San Francisco area who was never found and has managed to mimic that interminably long yet fascinating exploration by taking close to 3 hours to unravel the bits and pieces of evidence that were to confound the police and the press alike. Based on the book by Robert Graysmith … more
I am a substitute teacher who enjoysonline reviewing. Skiing is my favorite pastime; weight training and health are my obsessions;and music and movies feed my psyche. Books are a treasure and a pleasure … 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 ...