johnlink ranks ZODIAC (2007)

We’ve felt like a bunch of the movies we have watched lately have been of low value. It’s a fair assessment. So my wife and I decided to pick something we thought would be quality. We settled on one neither had seen, ZODIAC, by a director, David Fincher, who has a track record for delivering movies which… well… deliver.


I watched ZODIAC (2007) on 11.7.15. It was my first viewing of the film.

Like many David Fincher films, this is the story of a bunch of men trying to solve some problem. The problem, in this instance, is the real life story of the Zodiac Killer. This serial killer was a menace who murdered a bunch of people in Central California in the late 1960s. He was never caught, which gives this movie some artistic license as well as some limitations.

Though we meet all of our heroes throughout, the movie plays out in a way that a protagonist is featured in each of the movie’s three acts. Act one gives us alcoholic reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) who proves too broken to see the case to its fruition, next we have Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) who can’t make it to the finish line either, and finally we get the ever-present newspaper cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) who seems to be always lurking in the background, even if we know he is certainly meant to be our problem solver.

The movie whips along as it alternates between kills and investigations. Fincher tries to confuse us by making each Zodiac killing done by a different actor. We don’t get a definitive answer as to the who, and that is the point. The movie points to a multi-answer solution, and is not subtle about doing so. In that way, at least, this is an intriguing film. Fincher has no obligation to pretend this is a documentary in any way. This is an unsolved case which he has taken up for its entertainment value. But, in the telling of the story, Fincher clearly has a point of view. He thinks two people are responsible, even if he won’t come out and say so in the closing title cards.

All of the acting in this is superb. Gyllenhaal may give his best performance in a quality career. Downey Jr. does his usual thing, even if that usual thing is good for an A- performance at worst. Ruffalo provides a stonrg base. Anthony Edwards, as the ho-hum cop, is a nice foil for some of Tosco’s cheap eccentricities. John Carroll Lynch is guilty from the moment we see him (as he should be). Chloe Sevigny gives us a solid rock to push off from as the other half of Graysmith’s doomed-from-the-start marriage. Everyone in this is good, even the auxiliary characters.

If this movie has a problem, it is in the fact that the ending must be ambiguous. Fincher does all he can, but we know the conundrum in regards to the killer’s true identity was never solved. ZODIAC gives us an answer, but must couch it in question marks. We want a conclusion, but life is not always so neat.

Instead, this is smartly directed movie about what happens to the people who try to get answers. One becomes an insufferable alcoholic. One is discredited. One must divorce and become a loner. Nobody gets to be fully shown as right. All must accept their own levels of failure. They didn’t choose this, save for maybe Graysmith, but it is their life nonetheless.

ZODIAC is a solid film. Fincher does well. It looks good, sounds good, feels good. It may not be the movie you think of when you think of Fincher, but it certainly would never count as a mark against him. ZODIAC may not beg repeat viewing, but it absolutely deserves at least one watch.




FINAL SCORE: 7.25 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on November 11, 2015.

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