Zodiac (3.5 of 4)

David Fincher’s 2007 crime docu-drama Zodiac gives a detailed and specific look at the pursuit and murders of the Zodiac killer beginning in 1968.  This is a long movie, but it really needs to be. The book-length treatment of a script isn’t heavy-handed but careful and meticulous about every important detail and well-educates anyone unfamiliar with this U.S. tragedy.

The Zodiac killer writes letters to three San Fransisco area newspapers and demands they front page them or he will kill twelve random people over the weekend. This is the beginning of the Zodiac letters. They continue as detectives, played by Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards, try to piece together the clues based on the killer’s handwriting and circumstantial evidence.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. play a cartoonist and crime reporter, respectively, who try to crack the Zodiac’s code themselves. Everyone involved in the case, or hunt, for the murderer becomes slowly obsessed as they leave behind job duties, families and personal health in pursuit of the villain.

The movie quickly becomes a window into the minds of a group of people driven to near insanity in their quest for justice. It’s nothing less than a mesmerizing study of both criminal and law enforcement and the psychological damage that people take when hunting and hiding from one another.

The ensemble cast is spot on. Ruffalo stands out as he displays an honesty in his portrayal of Inspector David Toschi. Gyllenhaal is convincing as the outclassed cartoonist in a world he can’t control or understand, but desperately wants to. Downey Jr. plays himself (I’d say nothing special, but I like Downey Jr. even if he plays himself). Anthony Edwards, Toschi’s partner, gives a solid performance and brings in an emotional bond to both detectives.

John Carrol Lynch plays the Zodiac killer. He’s positively stupendous. Inside he’s scary, disturbed and brutal, but outside he appears sympathetic and subdued. This was the best casting in the film. When you see him for the first time, you know he’s the guy, the cops know he’s the guy, shoot, even he knows he’s the guy! But for some reason, you doubt it and Fincher lets you explore those doubts right along with the detectives and police of the mid 70s.

Fincher is really a master of moods (notice the consistency in the color scheme of the three screen shots). When I think of Fincher I think of Fight Club and Se7en with their identifiable lighting and the grungy feel. Or more recently The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and the holy glow about the characters. Zodiac is no different. There is a feeling throughout the films 2 1/2 hour timeline. A dark, rainy, frightening and cold feeling. But Fincher has an ability to turn the typical noir feel that he presents visually into something different instinctively. Something less cinematic and more emotional–more personal, and in this case, it worked.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: