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
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
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
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 … more
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 ...