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ZODIAC
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Reviewed by: JimmyO

Directed by: David Fincher

Starring:
Jake Gyllenhaal
Mark Ruffalo
Robert Downey Jr.

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
Three men search for the infamous Zodiac killer only to find their lives destroyed by the man murdering innocent people. For years, they try and discover who the mysterious monster is while dealing with a failed marriage, a failed career and the excess of alcohol and drugs.
Is it good movie?
When Betty Lou Jenson and David Faraday were shot by an unknown assailant on December 20th, 1968, nobody realized the horrifying event would lead to a city in fear. For 10 months, several young people were murdered by a man who gave himself the name Zodiac. He wrote several letters to the counties of Vallejo, Benicia, Lake Berryessa and San Francisco. He either shot or stabbed his victims, sometimes leaving the men alive. His letters contained codes that had people trying desperately to find an identity or motive leaving fear across Northern California. At one point, he was threatening to attack school buses with children leaving some districts having police escorts making sure that they arrived to school safe.

As with most tales of real life murderers such as Jeffrey Dahmer, Henry Lee Lucas and the Manson Family, there is something terribly disturbing because it happened. People were killed and brutalized and in the case of Zodiac, he was never caught. David Fincher understands this fear and realizes that he doesn’t need to try and scare you. The murders here are based on real events and are played without the morbid addition of gore or dramatic license. They are cold hearted facts created for the film which make for some very disturbing moments of horror. This is not trying to be exploitive, it is telling the story as it happened with a very clear, concise tale of trying to solve a mystery.

At over two and a half hours, Mr. Fincher avoids many of his stylistic works such as SE7EN and Fight Club with only a handful of scenes relying on his usual tactics. Which is not to say that I don’t appreciate his more colorful films, far from it. I admire those works much like I admire the simplicity of Zodiac. Far from a horror film, it is the study of a young cartoonist and soon to be author, Robert Graysmith played by Jake Gyllenhaal. His involvement in the case is dramatized as is journalist Paul Avery who is wonderfully played by Robert Downey Jr. and police investigator Dave Toschi also expertly played by Mark Ruffalo. All three leads are remarkably well cast within the character driven drama.

I enjoyed seeing the film more the second time as I was able to connect the dots better with the second viewing. I have not read the book on which this was based, although I was somewhat familiar with the case, so it was fascinating the way Mr. Fincher played it as an unsolvable mystery. Yet if you are looking for a horror film you will be disappointed. It is played as a much more straightforward story of an investigation without the dizzying over-the-top tricks used in the overabundance of crime drama’s on television. The late-Sixties and early-Seventies are wonderfully represented with a terrific set and costume design. Yet even though this is light on horror, the murders are incredibly tense and quite frightening, including a very powerful sequence involving the lovely Ione Skye.
Video / Audio
Video: The Widescreen 16x9 transfer looks fantastic and adds to the feel of this haunting tale of true life terror.

Audio: Also quite excellent is the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround which brings out the best in the very well placed soundtrack.
The Extras
What the f*ck? No extras, at all! There is a Trailer for the “Zodiac Director’s Cut“. Well at least they are honest about it from the beginning. We also get “Next” and “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer”. I suggest this as a rental, and wait for the loaded 2-disc to arrive at a store near you.
Last Call
David Fincher creates his most mature work yet with Zodiac. Although some may find it slow with it’s detailed story of an investigation which failed to find a killer, it makes for a very rewarding experience. The actors give some terrific performances although I thought Jake Gyllenhaal to be a bit weak in a couple of moments next to Ruffalo and Downey Jr. There is also a subtle and moving performance from Chloe Sevigny as Graysmith’s long-suffering wife. The moments of fear are very chilling and atmospheric, as is the mood of a time when innocence was lost, as Zodiac claimed his victims, while the police and those investigating his crimes found themselves lost in a sea of red tape. This is an ambitious and rewarding film thanks to a strong script and some very smart casting and directing. And even though it may not be David Fincher typical fare, he really shows his brilliance in a couple wonderful shots including the incredible shot above the Golden Gate Bridge. It really is pretty stunning. Although it may be in your best interest to wait for the Director’s Cut in 2008 to make a purchase.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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