DIRECTOR: David Fincher
It’s been four years since Zodiac first hit our screens back in 2007 and I had planned to watch it since then, but for one reason or another, it just didn’t happen. What a misjudgement that was! David Fincher’s interpretation of the all but unsolved Zodiac serial killings in California in the late 1960’s, early 70’s is bold, mainly for the fact that it faithfully tells the story, which is hindered by the fact that the Zodiac killer was never found, or at least formally charged.
The film follows three men, The Cop assigned to the case, the understated but generally outstanding Mark Ruffalo, The drunken journo, the always entertaining Robert Downey Jr. and the boy scout cartoonist for the same paper, Jake Gyllenhaal. The focus shifts throughout but ultimately it’s Gyllenhaal cartoonist who writes the real life book on the Zodiac killer.
Downey Jr. is the life of the party as the fame seeking, up-himself journalist who became a marked man by the Zodiac killer after branding him a homosexual in one the San Francisco Chronicle’s articles. It’s not until later in the film, which takes a dramatic change in tone, that Gyllenhaal takes centre stage as he begins to research his now famous best-seller on the subject, with his years of obsession destroying his family life.
The beauty of this crime puzzler is the genuine and very real complexity of the case. The plot follows the three leads and suspects which fail at one point and come back in to play in the next.This has all the hall marks of the All The President’s Men, the 1976 Robert Altman classic which is regarded as one the most influential films about U.S. Journalism and inspiring a generation of journalists to join the profession.
The look of the film in the early years, the opening scene is 1969, is very inductive of that era, with Fincher making every effort both subtly and otherwise to create a genuine sense of nostalgia and to me this looked as if it could have been filmed in the years that it was set, they felt so good. The attention to detail is remarkable.That’s not all: The dialogue exchanges are often outright funny, if not amusing but besides being typically rooted in the chiche’s of the movie industry, there’s still alot of natural discourse between the characters.
This is a film about obsession and a serial killer, one who has yet be caught, that’s presuming that he’s still alive. The gravitas of such a plot is almost brilliant in its originality but it’s also so very true as life is not always about solving every problem, but it’s often about how we live through them and this is a film which is about this more than anything else.
But there is a reason why David Fincher was offered this job, and his work on Se7en, which I believe to be one of the best crime horror’s all time, was in no small part responsible. The murder scenes are played out brilliantly. Chilling to the extreme of scary, but that is of course subjective. Fincher is a brilliant director, with an eye for making even the most mundane look astonishing such as the Cab murder sequence. This alone was a triumph of cinematography and was far from a unique example.
Overall, this film manages to succeed on every level, with great performances, attention to detail, brilliant cinematography and direction and a story so bold in its lack of true resolution that it manages to almost hoodwink the audience into thinking that they’re watching a crime thriller rather than a drama about three men’s obsession with what in many ways was a small serial killing case.
Highly recommended but I would suspect that just as many will hate what they see as a none progressive and boring film without a proper ending as will love it for the reasons above.