Monday, 21 September 2020
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Wednesday, 07 March 2007 00:00
Based on true events surrounding the unsolved case of a serial killer, Zodiac may be touted as a scary thriller but I wouldn’t be too quick to agree with that description. In fact, part of what gives this film value is that it doesn’t sensationalize every gory detail but instead tells a more human side of the story.

The Zodiac murders took place over several decades in and around the San Francisco area. It seemed the murderer killed at random, but craved fame and began a dialogue with several city newspapers as a ploy for publicity. His biggest pleasure was in playing mind games with the public. The Zodiac killer was never caught, and the prime suspect died never having been arrested for the crimes. Perhaps because Zodiac’s identity is unknown, this film wisely steers clear of getting us intimate with the killer. Instead it focuses on the affects of curiosity, conviction, and obsession in the lives of everyday people who got caught up in the case.

Mark Ruffalo plays Inspector Toschi who is assigned to the case and hounds tirelessly after the killer for several decades. In my opinion Ruffalo is one of the most promising and interesting emerging actors around, always choosing varied roles. He usually shines even when a film is weak. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the young cartoonist Robert Graysmith, who would eventually go on to write the book from which this film draws. He starts out as a fresh-faced cartoonist, dubbed a “Boyscout” by his co-workers, but his life falls apart as he is consumed with solving the case. These two central characters carry the film, along with some nice supporting performances by Robert Downey Jr. and John Carroll Lynch.

Director David Fincher is known for flashy and stylish films, the best of which are probably Se7en and Fight Club. His background directing music videos usually shows up in the form of glitzy camera work, but he’s toned it down here putting the weight squarely on the shoulders of his actors. That’s not to say he doesn’t employ some very nice technique in directing this movie. Many scenes made me sit up and take notice of Fincher’s ability to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. Driving through a suburb on July 4th, time passing in the form of a high-rise being erected, or simply walking through a news office all take on a fresh look under his direction.

Believe it or not Zodiac also delivers its fair share of humor, and actually caused me to laugh out loud more than once. Thankfully though I was laughing with this film, and not at it, as was the case with last week’s The Number 23.

Zodiac manages to keep up intensity for most of the two-and-a-half-hour time frame, which says a lot for a movie that is mostly dialogue driven. It probably could have benefited from even a ten-minute shave, but that is a pretty minor complaint.

No cheap thrills, but good solid entertainment. I give Zodiac 7 out of 10 stars.