Zodiac – 4 out of 5
For one reason or another, Zodiac was a film that was always on my list to see but somehow never got around to checking it out. I don’t understand why either because it’s a David Fincher film and I love that guy. His visuals are so stark and his presentations are so visceral and commanding. Not to mention this film has a tremendous cast and the story is about a real life mystery that was incredibly dark and horrifying. So, this last weekend I decided to finally check this one out. Also, I kinda wanted to learn more about what Ted Cruz did when he was younger.
|They really captured the darkness in Ted Cruz's soul.|
(I promise that was the last Ted Cruz joke...maybe)
|I don't even want to imagine what Zodiac's Penthouseletters were like.|
In the late 60s and early 70s, a mysterious man, who would become renowned as the Zodiac Killer, claimed responsibility for the deaths of many people. He begins to send encrypted letters to the San Francisco Chronicle and becomes the obsession of crime reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) and political cartoonist Robert Graysmith. Meanwhile, Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and William Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) begin a massive investigation to find out who the killer is. As the years pass and the body count rises, law enforcement is no closer to figuring out the killer’s identity and Graysmith quickly becomes obsessed with his own investigation and starts to sacrifice everything to find some closure to this great mystery.
|"Hey, don't make my partner angry...you wouldn't like him if he was angry."|
Zodiac is a really impressive crime thriller that has an amazing tone and atmosphere. David Fincher brings his trademark skills as a director to make something that captures the tension and frustrations the characters are feeling as this mystery unravels. It’s also nice to watch a film about a serial killer that doesn’t make its emphasis on the murders itself but rather the mystery surrounding the individual. A lot of serial killer films tend to focus more on the dark and gory but Zodiac was able to make it more about the obsession that some had in finding him. That isn’t to say that the feature doesn’t bring in its moments of terror and blood because it’s there (in fact, there are some really tense and spine-chilling moments…the blood, on the other hand, well, I’ll get to that in a minute) but the film was more about the annoyance, the frustration and hardships that came with not knowing who was responsible and the fear that he could be anyone and could strike at any time. Fincher’s signature work and his eye for atmosphere made for a perfect match for this feature and this story.
This movie also has a tremendous ensemble cast working in its favor. You already have powerhouse actors like Gyllenhaal, Ruffalo, Edwards, and RDJ taking the leads but they are backed up and supported by the likes of Brian Cox, Chloë Sevigny, Elias Kotes, Donal Logue, Adam Goldberg, James Le Gros, and more. Hell, Charles Fleischer—the voice of freakin’ Roger Rabbit—was in this one and his scene with Jake Gyllenhaal is creepy as hell!
|Seriously, this scene was really scary.|
At times, it seems like there might be too many recognizable names in this one and there’s a chance this film might end up being more about who they got to be in it than the actual story itself but everyone is so good in the film it was easy to forget that you were seeing a massive ensemble cast. Every member so effectively sold their roles that it was easy to get lost in the characters and become immersed in the events and action. A special mention has to also be made to John Carroll Lynch, who plays a man who is suspected of being the Zodiac Killer. Lynch is such a talented and versatile actor but he can do unsettling very well and he does it exceptionally amazing here. It’s hard to pick one over the other but the cast is so stellar that it almost outshines the excellently crafted story and Fincher’s foreboding tone.
|JCL is so awesome to watch in everything he's in. I loved the guy!|
The only drawbacks I found in Zodiac are that the subject material and, when this is mixed with the length of the film, it makes this one’s replay value low for me; blending this element with a narrative that is relatively on the slower side and it pretty much made for a feature that I’m probably only going to revisit once or twice in my life. However, the worst part of the film is the use of computer generated blood. This feature isn’t a gorefest but there is some blood here and there and, in an effort to save time and money, Fincher opted for using CG blood and the results are very obvious. The blood never looks real and it’s painfully obvious that it is added in post. Thankfully, this serial killer movie doesn’t contain a lot of shots of murder so the CG blood is contained to a few short scenes and on infrequent occasions. Overall the issue is easy to overlook but, when it arrives and when it is in the moment, it’s kinda hard not to cringe at it.
|I imagine this is the look that Gyllenhaal gives when people remind him of|
Zodiac is a striking feature about a serial killer that we never caught. The visuals and tone is killer (no pun intended) and the cast is exceptional! Furthermore, I like how the story never bothers to try and present who concretely the killer was but rather presented the theories and ideas. To effectively create this, Fincher used different actors to play the hidden killer and it really just added to the mystery and the tense mood. Sure, the fake blood is distracting but this movie wasn’t about the blood, it was about the atmosphere and it delivered that extremely well.