"I am not the Zodiac. And if I were, I certainly wouldn't tell you."
Written by: James Vanderbilt
Directed by: David Fincher
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Chloe Sevigny
My rating: 5/5
To write a film containing as much information as Zodiac is a daunting task. It is in great danger of getting bogged down in facts and figures while forgetting to establish characters and/or intrigue. However, films such as Alan J. Pakula's All the President's Men proves that such tasks are possible. The trick is to roll with the punches. Fincher steers well clear of the 3 act traditional structure, instead following the meandering drama, with all its ups and downs, forcing the audience to endure the torment of the wicked succession of heartbreaking dead end leads.
The film follows the story of three central figures in the unravelling mystery of the Zodiac killer. San Francisco Chronicle star reporter, Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) whose substance abuse starts as a fun, quirk and slowly disintegrates him until he has become a recluse. Dave Tosci (Mark Ruffalo) is the frustrated homicide officer who devotes a huge part of his life to the investigation. Paul Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist who decides to write a book about the killer and in the process solves the mystery of Zodiac's identity.
A typical serial killer flick this ain't! The murder scenes although harrowing, do not play it for scares and the gore is minimal. In fact, it is the matter-of-fact nature of the scenes that makes them so harrowing. The lack of any real resolution is something that makes for very frustrating cinema, but there was enough conclusion to allow the audience to feel satisfied. Because nobody was ever charged with the Zodiac murders, Fincher's story focuses on why nobody was caught, allowing the audience to question the system, and its alleged over-reliance on technical evidence. This unsettling look at "due process" and "protocol"'s failure to succeed is the real focus of the film. Instead of the usual cat and mouse serial killer story, this story deeply investigates the reasons why Zodiac was never caught.The tiniest details are included and the story moves so quickly that if your attention loses focus for even a moment, chances are you'll have missed something important.
With Zodiac, David Fincher has finally found the right balance of style and storytelling. Although he has made some of the most important films of the past decade, sometimes his flashy style can distract from the story and perhaps even cheapen its impact slightly. Zodiac is pure Fincher visually, but never gets bogged down in its aesthetics. It looks beautiful, with perfect 70's period recreation merged with a classical Hollywood film noir style. Some brilliant camerawork only helps the story along, and never draws focus away from the events taking place.
The performances in the film are a huge part of the reason this film works so well. Every single tiny character in this film full of tiny characters is perfectly cast. It is full of brilliant performances, especially from the three lead actors, each of which bring enormous charisma to their respective characters. In films like this, there is a thin line between forgetting to fully realise characters and getting too involved with the central characters. Zodiac sits perfectly on that very line. The three leads go through enormous changes and development throughout the film, but these details are tightly woven into the story, never ever losing focus from the story at hand.
Overall, I found myself unable to find any flaws in Vanderbilt's perfect script, Fincher's perfect direction and Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo and Jake Gyllenhaal's perfect performances. One must be warned to ensure that full concentration be given to the film. Due to its meticulous nature, it is full of tiny details that become very important later. If you force yourself to see one film in the cinema this summer, let it be Zodiac rather than a blockbuster. It deserves your attention more and may lose something in its small screen adaptation.
- Charlene Lydon