With over a dozen movies based on the real-life “Zodiac Killer” murders of California in the late ‘60s – early ‘70s, it’s shocking that not a single one of them has got it right. After painless hours of being bored to tears by directors like Ulli Lommel’s visions, David Fincher is the one who gets it right. His first film in four years, ZODIAC, is his most mature yet, blending his past works into one masterful, epic film.
Fincher’s film is based on the Robert Graysmith books about the real life notorious Zodiac, a serial killer who terrorized San Francisco with a string of seemingly random murders during the 1960s and 1970s.
Adapted by James Vanderbilt, the movie beautifully blends three stories into one intense thriller. ZODIAC focuses on three main characters – Jake Gyllenhaal as Robert Graysmith, the cartoonist down at the San Francisco Chronicle; Robert Downey Jr. as Paul Avery, a writer for the Chronicle; and the remarkable Mark Ruffalo as Inspector David Toschi.
In my humble opinion Fincher is the first to solve the ZODIAC’s puzzle and has figured out exactly how to turn this story into an interesting one. Instead of it being a violent crime-thriller the story is spun in a way that it’s a drama focusing on the three main individuals following the case instead of the Zodiac himself. The Zodiac’s story isn’t much of an interesting one, as he’s just another serial killer – the real story is the frustration, obsession and heart behind the hunt for him.
ZODIAC clocks in at over 2 hours 35 minutes, which makes it no walk in the park. The only flaw the film has is that at times it drags, but it’s quite essential in the storytelling. The first half of the film focuses on Inspector Toschi’s hunt for the Zodiac killer and his obsession in catching him. We are given the facts, the murders and the entire story. At the halfway point the film pauses for a good 5 seconds as we shift focus. Part two is Graysmith’s story and his own obsession with the case. He decides to write a book and begins researching the long closed case. While digging he discovers a few clues that help uncover who the Zodiac killer might be.
Beyond the beautiful directing and cinematography, what really solidifies ZODIAC as a memorable film was the acting. Gyllenhaal, Downey Jr. and Ruffalo? What more could you want??! Shocking as it may sound, Ruffalo stole the show and put on one of the best performances of the year. Having Gyllenhaal and Downey Jr., who can do no wrong, only took the film to a whole new level.
Fincher’s vision is compelling, chilling, extremely intense, captivating and beautifully told – I feel ZODIAC might stand the test of time and become yet another classic from this acclaimed director. The only depressing thing is that the Zodiac was never officially caught, so we’ll never know who he was. Will the film become as legendary as the name itself… ZODIAC? Fincher has come the closest to cracking the code than anyone else and I don’t expect a better Zodiac film to come along… ever. This is THE Zodiac movie.