David Fincher is known for making dark films, but this takes it to another level. It probably seems even more creepy because it’s all based on something real (in fact, it definitely is creepier), but it’s weird that it’s actually quite an interesting and kind of enjoyable movie too.
Set in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 60’s, the film follows a series of detectives and journalists as they all respond differently to the horrific murders of the serial killer known only as the Zodiac. It’s horrible to think that these crimes actually happened and it’s even more nightmarish to see them brought to life through witness testimonies. It honestly sends chills down my spine. It’s awful. But the film is good though!
It weaves in multiple characters and their investigations over a long period of years in which the murders occurred. There’s Robert Downey Jr. as Paul Avery, a journalist who covered the Zodiac case and became quite a high profile target during the investigation. Downey plays his usual type, fast talking, smart and quipping at every opportunity. Jake Gyllenhaal is Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist at the same newspaper as Avery who becomes involved in the investigation and eventually went on to write the book this film is based on. He’s a little bit of an oddball, at least to his coworkers, but he takes a real interest in the case and starts uncovering some evidence and developing some theories of his own. As Inspector David Toschi is Mark Ruffalo. One of the lead investigators of the case, he’s determined to catch the killer and you can tell it really hurts him every time the Zodiac slips through his fingers. He’s a really raw character and you feel for him when he doesn’t succeed. Also of note is John Carroll Lynch as Arthur Leigh Allen, the prime suspect in the Zodiac case but was never charged or found out. The filmmakers (as well as me and probably most audiences in general really) clearly paint him as the most likely suspect of the crimes and though he is literally only in about two scenes, he’s a really scary dude and makes such and impact that you can’t help but shout at the screen that he’s the murderer.
The film does really well to weave all these separate character stories in with lots of facts and evidence. The film almost feels like part documentary part drama. It’s never boring or procedural and always leaves you in suspense waiting for the next scene. Obviously it’s terrible that they never caught the real life killer, but it’s also a little annoying watching a whole movie and then having no real resolution. That doesn’t affect the film at all though and David Fincher still manages to keep you on edge the whole way through and shock you with twists and turns in the narrative.
‘Zodiac‘ may be a pretty horrifying experience, but it’s certainly a rewarding one. Not in terms of resolution, but in terms of great filmmaking. Part documentary, part suspense thriller, it may just be one of Fincher’s best films.
JACK’S SCORE: 4/5