Running Time: 157 minutes
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox, John Carroll Lynch, Chloe Sevigny, Elias Koteas, Donal Logue, Dermot Mulroney
Directed By: David Fincher
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Based on true events, Zodiac is the story of a serial killer that stalked the San Francisco Bay area in the 60’s and 70’s.
I once revealed that I have a love for movie musicals. I now have another confession to make…..drum roll….I also love true crime stories. Hmm, a love for musicals and true crime, I am sure a psychologist would have a field day with that. Anyways, Zodiac is the story of the Zodiac Killer. He was a serial killer that tormented the San Francisco Bay area in the late 1960’s to mid 1970’s. We follow a cartoonist as he becomes obsessed with finding out the true identity of one of the most infamous serial killers in American history.
Ed Gein may have been more macabre, Ted Bundy may have had a more sadistic nature, and Jeffrey Dahmer may have committed more unspeakable acts, but no serial killer in history has been more puzzling/intriguing than the Zodiac. He is the North American equivalent of Jack the Ripper. I have followed the Zodiac story for as long as I can remember, and I thought there was no way that they could turn it into an effective movie. I was wrong. The film starts out and we are treated to a typical American 4th of July weekend. (Year 1968.) There are fireworks, kids running in the streets, and people laughing and having fun. That is all about to change with a deranged man stalking the San Francisco Bay area. After some unexplained murders occur, the local newspapers receive letters from a man claiming to be the Zodiac killer (The Zodiac name will be explained in the film.) It would be the start of an investigation that would span a decade, but still is talked about today. Why the case/movie is so gripping is that it has so many interesting angles. The Zodiac sends complex ciphers to the newspapers, he sends crime scene evidence to the newspapers, he sends pictures to the newspapers, and he sends messages of impending massacres to the newspapers. You know all those stupid generic crime films where the killer taunts the police? That actually happened with the Zodiac. So, as you can see this is a story that someone can easily obsess over. That is where we find ourselves with this movie. A cartoonist named Robert Graysmith takes it on himself to discover the true identity of the Zodiac. The journey for the truth may cost Graysmith his family, his job, and maybe his life.
This is an ensemble cast that gels on almost every level. You have Robert Downey Jr. playing the charming and drugged up Paul Avery. He is a journalist that is tasked to write about the Zodiac. He is an imperfect character that is played perfectly. Avery’s co worker is Robert Graysmith played by Jake Gyllenhaal. He is a cartoonist who becomes obsessed with the case to the detriment to his personal life. Gyllenhaal is solid, but I felt that he should have had some serious weight loss to seal the performance. It would have given his crazy obsession more believability. Lastly there is Inspector Dave Toschi played by Mark Ruffalo. He is a kind of OCD detective who is tasked in catching the Zodiac. He also sees his life turned upside down as he is pressured to catch the killer. He was great and it made the film amazing to watch. No matter if it was Downey Jr., Gyllenhaal, or Ruffalo on screen, you were guaranteed a fantastic performance.
As the film rolls along it is clear that this is all about the mystery of the Zodiac, as opposed to the murders themselves. Don’t get me wrong though, the victims are dispatched with violence that is so shockingly real that you feel like you are watching real life footage. But the killings seem secondary is all I am saying. The Zodiac is proficient with his many killing weapons, but his pen is his mightiest (Don’t giggle at that line.) He torments a population with his pronouncements of grand killing sprees, and baffles them with his cryptic codes. The film is also awesome in the sense that it spans different counties. Back before computers it was hard to coordinate evidence from different areas. The frustrations that occur because of this fact are staggering. Key pieces of evidence can be missed for years because of this fact and that only adds to the story. As the film comes to a close you will feel Graysmith’s passion for finding the killer. It could be anyone. It could be your next door neighbor, it could be your work colleague, it could be a police officer, and not knowing is part of the allure. In conclusion, this movie is amazing right from the start. The Zodiac Killer held San Francisco in his grips and slowly squeezed it until all that was left was paranoia. The film is brutally realistic without being over the top gory, and the twists and turns will take you for an emotional ride. Lastly, there are a few fantastic, gripping your seat moments as Graysmith’s obsession leads him to some truly chilling locations.
Director David Fincher knows his crime/mystery movies (Seven, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.) He captivates his audience once again with this movie, and he does it without any glorified gore. The Zodiac Killer has so many theories and evidence surrounding that it could have been confusing. There is no need to worry as Fincher directs this film like a sea captain to a light house. He has captured so many nice little nuances to the story. He presents many suspects, and he also makes you see how this killer tore apart so many people’s lives. Fincher has many gems on his resume, Zodiac maybe at the top.
I give this movie a huge recommendation as the story is not to be missed. If you liked this film, than you should read about the Zodiac’s unsolved ciphers and the radian theory which are also quite interesting.
T Factor + If you like crime movies, than this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you are like high body counts and lots of gore than this could score lower on the rating scale
If you liked this film reel recommendations: Seven, The Bone Collector.