Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey, Jr.
Synopsis: Following series of violent murders in the bay area by a psycho who calls himself the Zodiac, a political cartoonist attempts to solve the crimes and identify the killer.
I’m not the sort of person who gets scared by films like Paranormal Activity or The Exorcist because I don’t believe in demons or ghosts or any of that malarkey. What really scares me is films like The Bone Collector and Halloween because serial killers are real. They actually exist. I went to go see Zodiac when it was first released and I remember how much it scared the crap out of me. It was only when I returned to watch the movie recently that I saw why that was. This movie doesn’t nudge you towards a certain perspective or opinion. It lays everything that happened in real life before you and then leaves you to place the pieces of the puzzle. The thing that I find unsettling is that the series of events is virtually impossible to decipher. Just when you think you may have the Zodiac murders solved, something else comes up and throws a spanner in the works. David Fincher places the audience bang-smack in the middle of the fucked-up historical conundrum and doesn’t even throw them a life raft. Almost 50 years later and we still have no clue who the killer really was. That’s the scariest thing of all: the real life killer got away.
Of course, I don’t think the killer’s going to come out of hiding anytime soon and hunt me down. If the police didn’t stop him or her (thanks Friday the 13th) then mother nature and father time surely have now. Still, it’s a period of California history that is steeped in infamy and bad memories. My friend’s mother once told me about growing up in the bay area when this happened and how terrified people were to go to school thanks to the Zodiac’s letters. Fincher perfectly captures the ominous tone of the events by seeping everything in a dull and gloomy grey haze. It gives the film a macabre feel; almost as if there’s something waiting in the shadows.
The cast should be applauded for their performances. I find that Jake Gyllenhaal can be a bit of a hit or miss actor but he did a really good job of playing Robert Graysmith. Is it wrong that I only find him hot in roles in which he plays a socially awkward misfit/borderline retard? Anyway, the other cast members did a cracking job too, especially Robert Downey Jr. who brings the occasional comic relief to an otherwise humourless film. Also: Mark Ruffalo. Yum. He’s my older gentleman fantasy guy. I guess it’s inappropriate me telling you this seeing as I’m writing a review for a film about a serial killer but I’m always appreciative of eye candy.
The film does have its flaws. For starters, it is as long as Long Dong Silver (yes, there is a porn star called that). The movie goes on and on and on and, although there is enough to keep your attention generally, by the time you reach the two hour mark you’ll probably start checking your facebook account on your phone. Also, Chloë Sevigny’s character wasn’t fleshed out very well which is a shame because she is rather brilliant in her hipster queen kind of way. Finally, the ending was rather abrupt and rushed together.
Ultimately, Zodiac is a solid choice when you have a while to spare and when you want something atmospheric and unsettling. Just make sure you’ve got enough stash to last for a few hours because you may need a top up half-way through.
- Cinematography which sets a macabre and somber tone.
- Time-warp vintage awesomeness. Fincher’s commitment to time-specific detail was impressive. I kind of wish I lived in the US in the 70s…except for the whole Zodiac killing thing…
- Some scenes which are creepy as fuck. The bit with the creepy guy in the basement had me squirming.
- Solid performances from a diverse cast.
- Unsatisfactory ending.
- I had the creepy opening song in my head for days which began to piss me off after a while.
I often think that this is one of Fincher’s most overlooked films. Although not his best, I still think it’s a very commendable effort and it’s certainly better than Alien 3. Zodiac is a well-constructed film that ticks most of the boxes: enthralling, creepy, and well-acted. Watch this when you want a brain-buster or when you want to get your stoner Nancy Drew on…or, in my case, stoner Nancy-boy Drew.