‘Zodiac’: A fine film from Fincher

Fri, 03/09/2007 - 11:57am
By: Michael Boylan

The Zodiac killer terrorized the San Francisco area and other parts of California for a number of years in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and he keeps a number of people in David Fincher’s new film “Zodiac” up at night as well. “Zodiac” is a serial killer movie about the people who investigate and report about him. The killer is a specter, someone who shows up in a few intense scenes of the movie, re-creations of the actual events, but looms even larger as a man who forces people into an obsession of finding the killer’s identity and capturing him.

The film is based on the work of Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle at the time of the killings, who began to follow the case very closely, especially once it went off the radar of the police. Graysmith, who wrote two books about Zodiac, is played masterfully by Jake Gyllenhaal, who throws nearly everything away as he presses on his amateur investigation. He isn’t the only one trapped by his obsession though. Reporter Paul Avery, played by Robert Downey Jr., is on the story from the beginning and eventually taunts the killer and draws his ire. Avery starts to get paranoid and panic and one could argue the death of his career is another victim of the Zodiac. The police are the ones who put in the most time though and detectives Dave Toschi, played by Mark Ruffalo, and Bill Armstrong, played by Anthony Edwards, give years of their lives to the case and eventually have to drop it, both to keep working and stay sane.

Fincher proves that he is one of the best directors working today, although the film is far less flashy than some of his previous attempts. He succeeds with this film, though, because he doesn’t flinch at the length and detail required to tell the story accurately and he makes a very entertaining movie in the process. “Zodiac” works on just about every level. It keeps the audience guessing as to the killer’s identity, it ratchets up the suspense in a number of scenes and it features some terrific acting from top to bottom.

The film is long, but it certainly gives the viewer his or her money’s worth.


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