guppy's film reviews

Friday, March 09, 2007


Year: 2007
Director: David Fincher
Notable Actors: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr.
Score: B+
Summary: Solid and well-made semi-documentary about an infamous 1960s California serial killer; structure has a few issues and film runs a bit long.

I've been looking forward to Zodiac since I first saw a preview for it, mostly because it was being directed by David Fincher, whose work I've loved without exception in the past. I'm happy to say that it did not let me down, though I do have a few quibbles. I should note that the Zodiac killer really existed, and is credited, if that's the right word to use, with several serial murders in the San Francisco area. Zodiac is a retelling of the story of his investigation.

SF Chronicle crusader née cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Gyllenhaal) is more or less the central figure on the story, and while he doesn't do anything wrong, per se, he doesn't really have the screen presence necessary for the role. He is thus upstaged by SFPD inspector David Toschi (Ruffalo) and especially by colorful reporter Paul Avery (Downey Jr.), who are emblematic of otherwise very strong casting.

The script is pretty solid and does a good job of keeping you up with the investigation, but it's full of cuts to later dates and times, and all this jumping around leaves the viewer with a disappointingly poor grasp of time. The cuts are labeled, but when the cut for "four days later" and "four years later" take the same amount of time, things start to run together a bit. There is one well-constructed scene that represents the exception to this rule. Along similar lines, the movie runs long at 158 minutes; I was never bored, but the length did draw me out of the experience a bit. This is largely due to the nature of the story, but the fact is that the meandering costs the film some points.

It took me a while to decide what I thought of the ending, but eventually I decided that Fincher did with it what he was responsibly able, and I think others will draw the same conclusion.

Zodiac's a good film and evidences Fincher's usual high standards, but it suffers some flaws that keep it from making my A-list. The nature of the film and their common director means that it will inevitably be compared to Se7en, and Zodiac's just not at that level. Worth seeing, but not as strong as some of the other entries in Fincher's catalog.


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