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Zodiac
DVD disk
Jul 23, 2007 By: Jason Adams
Zodiac order
Director:
David Fincher

Actors:
Jake Gyllenhaal
Mark Ruffalo
Robert Downey Jr.

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Throughout the late 1960s and early 70s, a serial killer calling himself Zodiac kept San Francisco in a grip of terror, evading police investigation, playing a cat-and-mouse game with the local media, and piquing the personal obsession of cartoonist Robert Graysmith.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
I took an American Directors class in college that focused on Scorsese, Kubrick, Oliver Stone and David Fincher. Now I love FIGHT CLUB and SEVEN as much as the next guy, but I was surprised the stodgy professor held Fincher in the same regard as the other three. But after we dissected and discussed his films (aside from ALIEN3 and PANIC ROOM), I began to realize that Fincher was well on his way to exactly what ZODIAC proves: the man may be a master of visual polish and gloss, but he knows how to use it to tell an effective story.

One of ZODIACís biggest successes is its atmosphere and setting. From the old style logos to the subtle use of CG to fill in the San Francisco backdrop, the movie completely captures the 60s and 70s down to the smallest detail, which goes an incredibly long way towards the filmís authenticity. (The use of music from the period also borders on Scorsese-levels of greatness, especially Donovanís Hurdy Gurdy Man.) Fincher again demonstrates his mastery of the visual medium, especially with mise en scŤne and chiaroscuro (to quote my professor). Thanks to the new VIPER hi-def camera, everything looks gorgeousóthe overhead shots of the city, the gritty street scenes, even the murders look disturbingly great. However, unlike his previous films, Fincher subdues his moving camera and doesnít call attention to the visuals, aside from a few impressive shots. In ZODIAC itís the smaller things like framing and lighting that go a long way to creating a substantially unsettling mood.

The prospect of David Fincher returning to the serial killer genre is exciting, but this is a completely different movie than SEVEN. While thereís a handful of scenes filled with genuine suspense, ZODIAC is more of a drama/mystery than an outright thriller. (Itís also surprisingly funny in spots.) Instead, its top priority is to present a thorough account of the multi-year investigation from multiple points of view. Even on a second viewing the amount of detail presented here is unbelievable, and the fact thatís itís roped in to a coherent, engaging story is more impressive. Because of its piecemeal nature, ZODIAC does have an odd sense of pacing and structure. At nearly three hours, it definitely takes its time, expertly building on facts and characters. (Interestingly enough, it gets its second wind almost two hours in.) Since the case was never officially solved, the film comes to its own conclusions about the culprit, but is honest in its evidence and shortcomings. Whether you take it as an open-ended cinematic case study or simply a detailed drama about crime and obsession, ZODIAC is a highly engrossing, masterful film.
THE EXTRAS
Just Previews, including one for the 2-disc Directorís Cut and all its special features. Thatís like a slap in the face.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
ZODIAC is easily one of the best films of the year so far, and a true return to form for David Fincher. Itís not your typical serial killer flick, but if you have any interest in crime movies or the Zodiac Killer in particular, this movieís got everything you could want and then some. As far as the DVD itself, thereís a new Directorís Cut due out in 2008 that actually has some Special Features, so youíre better off waiting to buy that. But definitely rent ZODIAC now if you havenít already seen it.

Extra Tidbit: Gary Oldman was originally slated to play Marvin Belli, but was replaced by Brian Cox due to lack of ďgirthĒ (according to Robert Graysmith).
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