Who is “The Zodiac Killer”? Actually I think the better question is who cares?
“The Zodiac Killer” was a serial killer during the 60’s to 70’s who wrote to the San Francisco Chronicle talking about what he was going to do next and stunned everybody all-over-the-world by how he was never caught. Two people, a homicide detective (Mark Ruffalo) and journalist (Robert Downey Jr.) spend half of their lives trying to solve the case, only to be shown-up many years later by a cartoonist (Jake Gyllenhaal).
Going into this and knowing that this was a David Fincher flick, I had a feeling that I was in for some utterly insane craziness that happens in just about all of his films. However, when it comes to a 157 minute film about an open-case, I got something way way better.
This is a very long film that is filled with non-stop talking, evidence, procedures, details, facts, and everything else that has to do with this case but I was never bored once. Fincher seems totally dedicated to this case and all of the investigations and claims that were made for this whole case are brought up giving us a more clear view of what is actually going on with this case. We never find out who the killer is, even though we get a general idea through red herrings, but the fact that we listen and learn as this case is following through, you can get a sense that you are here solving the case as much as they are as well. Of course this is more like a clear-cut film that seems like one long episode of ‘CSI’, but if you like mystery/crime films that show you just about everything without leaving anything out, this is a perfect watch for you as much as it was for me.
Another great element to this film that Fincher uses is creating tension in the mood as if I was watching a flick from the 70’s itself, which is where the story takes place. Fincher creates the fashions and feelings of the time, but still being able to add in his own CGI-enhanced material that will still seem relevant to the story as it gives it this very moody and grim look but still in a way full of colors when some big shine of light comes through. We also get these dark and moody feelings where something is just not right in the air and the fact that almost nothing happens (no big car chases, no big shoot-out) is a true testament to Fincher’s sturdy hand considering the whole time I was on-the-edge-of-my-seat with this paranoia that I was starting to feel a lot more than the actual characters themselves. I also could not tell you if there was a completley unneeded scene here that had nothing to do with this actual investigation, which is not very common with thrillers nowadays but then again, Fincher is just a totally different dude.
I think I was just some impressed by this film because it’s something that is incredibly different from anything else that Fincher has done before. We see him in more of a subdued drama, that may seem too dialogue-heavy in some parts, but overall keeps you watching the whole time. The fact that Fincher also never lets us in on what he feels is the right solution to this case or who he feels is really the killer, made me appreciate this film even more as it could almost be another case where even motion pictures can shed some intelligent life on an investigation that may have taken forever to solve, but could be easily solved by just facing the facts…Jack.
My one and only problem with this flick is that I didn’t really like what it turned out to be in the end when we start to focus on Gyllenhaal’s character, Robert Graysmith. We see how Graysmith starts to become terribly obsessed with this case so much that he starts to alienate his family, grow paranoid in everything he does, and basically make his house a shit-sty of papers that have to do with the case that he can’t get over and just let go. We have all seen this idea and material way too much and it wasn’t like the last act had me annoyed, I was still easily interested but I just think it was more of a bummer to see Fincher resort what seemed like ‘The Number 23’.
Fincher has a huge cast of characters here but only a couple stand out in my book. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a very good performance as Graysmith and shows that he has a lot of craft, energy, and tension in almost every scene that he places himself in. It’s such a shame that him and Fincher vowed to never work again because Gyllenhaal was able to give one of his best grown-up performances that I have really seen so far. No, I do not mean you, ‘Prince of Persia’. Mark Ruffalo is also very good as David Toschi, showing that he is able to throw himself into an eccentric role that demands you to feel his pain and anguish. Robert Downey Jr. is a lot of fun as the flamboyant and funny, Paul Avery and shows why Downey should just go back to playing normal people roles rather than just Tony Stark or Sherlock Holmes. There are so many other people in this film that just do phenomenal jobs with each of their own respective roles and I really have to give it to Fincher for nailing down just about every single role.
Consensus: Zodiac is a film where barely anything happens, except for a lot of talking and investigation into a case that is still open today, but Fincher keeps this long flick totally entertaining, exciting, and tense with a great screenplay that dives right into the investigation itself, and show perfect performances by just about everybody involved.
I think this was a very underrated film. Yet, I’m more intrigued by the Director’s Cut that added five additional of material in the film.
I need to check that out but I also think that this one was just enough for me to handle. Thanks Steve!
I reviewed this film a while back and thought it was great as well. Fincher shows a great amount of discipline by not resorting to typical mindless action.
The Finch never disappoints, and while the whole cast was great, I think Mark Ruffalo’s performance was perhaps the best. I’m glad you liked this movie because I’ve talked to some people who couldn’t get past the fact that it’s a 157-minute movie without much action and with knowledge of the fact that the killer is never caught. It’s so meticulous, detailed, and expertly made that it somehow keeps you glued in the whole time. Nice review, Dan.
It’s one of those perfect mystery flicks that never fully comes together in the end even though there is so much that Finch puts into it. Thanks my main man Tommy!
LOL. Great write up Dan, I love this one. Glad to see you gave it such a high grade, I think it deserves it. Incredible work by Fincher… telling a story where, essentially, the bad guy gets away. Shows how the collateral damage of an event like this can be devastating even to people who arent involved directly
I’m going to have to use the word Shit-sty for myself at some point! 😀
Hhaha nice my man!
Overall, I think this film is certainly pretty good, but I feel I liked it a little less than you did. My main problem with it is that it felt overly long, which I tend to be fine with if it seems completely necessary. In truth, seeing the case reworked by Jake Gyllenhal in the second half of the film was like seeing a repetition of what I had just seen in the first half but with a different back-story and a bit more obsessive character.
I do think the acting is great all around, though my favorite performance was that of John Carroll Lynch who played the most credible suspect in a very creepy and very effective way. An underrated actor by all means.
An actor you see in almost everything and does a great job no matter what. Thanks!
I and some others care. We’re part of a small but dedicated collection of people who actively follow and analyze this case.
From a movie perspective, Zodiac, is obviously a good bit of film making. From a content perspective, however, the story clearly suffers from the fact that it’s based, primarily, on Robert Graysmith’s book. The main focus of the book, Arthur Leigh Allen, is almost certainly not the Zodiac. He’s been cleared based on fingerprints, handwriting, palm prints and DNA (i.e. Allen’s DNA compared against the partial DNA fingerprint developed in the early 2000’s).
Of course, the challenge with telling the story of the Zodiac in an entertaining manner is figuring out a way to end it, given that the killer was never identified. Fincher makes a commendable attempt, but it still leaves something to be desired. I think the part of the film which you had a problem with came about from the writers trying to make the point of the movie’s tagline: “There’s more than one way to lose your life to a killer.”
I wish the movie would have included the initial murders from December 20, 1968. Fincher (I think) gives an explanation as to why it was left out in the commentary: there were no eyewitness accounts of what happened. However, I feel like that’s a weak reason considering the killer is only known to have definitely killed five people and the first attack accounted for two of them.
From my perspective, of course, it’s hard not to like a movie that has given the case of the Zodiac such a large amount of exposure, even if I do have a few issues with it.
If you’re interested in a concise summary of the timeline in the case of the Zodiac killer, please have a look at: Who was the Zodiac killer.
Definitely will check all of this out. Thanks!
Such a great film. I think this film marked a change from Fincher’s early visual style – in this, there’s less “look at me” camerawork of the kind we saw in Fight Club and Panic Room (both excellent films in their own ways) and Zodiac allowed Fincher to bring us a more straighforward, less bombastic filmic style.
Great review, Dan!
Definitely showed us that he could be a force behind any story and it is still something he is able to show today. Thanks Rod!
It’s been such a long time since I saw this film but I do remember that I loved it. It’s a dark and twisty film. Knowing that it’s all based on real events makes it that much more sinister.
Definitely agree with you on Fincher’s ability to just keep the film going, despite it almost being stagnant for most of the time. Incredible work from him.
It’s a piece of incredible work from him and it’s one of those flicks that deserves to be watched and sat through the whole time. Thanks Jaina!
Zodiac is definitely evidence of Fincher’s intelligent and precise filmmaking. Fincher researched so much and went on his own investigations to prepare himself for making the film. It’s an interesting point you made that often films are able to shed light on current situations that have been going on for a while.
Fincher’s work in Zodiac proves that you don’t need explosions or sex to make a film interesting. A lot of that power rests in the hands of the writers, directors, and filmmakers.
Oh, and BTW – I really liked The Number 23 🙂
I hated that flick but this one was way, way better than that and shows exactly what you said. Thanks Kristin!
This is a pretty solid flick and it, like The Game, deserves more attention than it gets. Fincher’s movies are all long but they move very swiftly. This could have benefited from some editing but I think the long runtime helped you in some way feel what the detectives were going through trying to find Zodiac. Great actors giving great deliveries make this an underrated Fincher win.
It’s long run-time can get a little too much at points, but it feels right for the material and keeps getting more and more interesting as the flick goes on. Thanks Marc!
I agree that the movie could have used some editing, but overall I found it quite engrossing. I was also puzzled as to why the first murders were not included, as I think that fact was important.
It’s funny, but the scene that sticks most in my mind (I saw this quite a while ago) was the one where the kids in such a matter of fact way are helping dad sort information about the murders at the kitchen table, and dad suddenly remembering to remind them not to tell their mother about what they are doing. Collateral damage indeed.
Hahah that’s funny that you remember that scene of all the others. Thanks Deb!
I wanted to like this movie given all of the fantastic players but I was bored to tears. Love crime stories, especially ones about elusive criminals that manage to outwit the authorities. Just couldn’t get into this one. Been a while since I’ve seen it, so I can’t think of anything in particular at the moment that really bothered me.
It’s a good crime story that is even better because of Fincher’s amazing direction. Thanks Evan!
cheers for checking my review of john carter, your zodiac review is on the money. how did you come across me?
I just found you somehow.
Now, for me this is a horror movie, it’s so true to fact and real which makes it so scary. Fincher made a home run with this film but not a lot of credit for it. I enjoyed the rhythm of this movie, the pace and the low action. I can’t see it being any different if then, the feel of the movie would have been all wrong and I might not have felt the same sick feeling in my stomach. It’s all good thou. Keep up the good work Dan !!
Great review! I liked the movie but I consider it to be one of Fincher’s worst – it didn’t stay with me as his other movies like Se7en and Fight Club. I thought despite its long run time there was a lot of characters and neither of them got a chance to shine. Particularly Downey Jr should have much more screen time.