‘Zodiac’ movie review: David Fincher’s true crime masterpiece

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A gripping, fascinating true-crime story, David Fincher´s Zodiac does for the Zodiac investigation what Stone’s JFK did for the Kennedy assassination and Pakula´s All the President´s Men did for the Watergate scandal.

And it´s just as good as the aforementioned classics.

In the late 1960´s and early 70´s, a serial killer who identified himself as Zodiac terrorized the San Francisco Bay area; not so much due to the number of his victims (5 murders are officially attributed to the killer, though he claimed many more) but because of the taunting, cryptic messages he sent to newspapers and police investigators.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith (the film is based on the real-life Graysmith´s book), who follows the Zodiac case from a distance before becoming obsessed with the case and conducting his own investigation.

Robert Downey Jr. is Paul Avery, reporter for the Chronicle who becomes directly involved in the case; Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards are San Francisco detectives tracking the killer while hamstrung by police procedure.

Entire cast – right down to the smallest roles – is excellent. Period detail is flawless.

Director Fincher has restrained himself here, giving us a film that looks and feels both natural and perfect; while some of the his flair is still apparent – notably a couple of impossible overhead helicopter shots and a time-lapse sequence showcasing the construction of the TransAmerica building – it never becomes obtrusive.

Completely compelling stuff all the way; engages the viewer every minute of its 2.5 hours.

Some may feel unsatisfied due to the lack of resolution here, but it accurately and effectively reflects the still-unsolved real-life case. Only complaint: the use of CGI blood splatter.

Zodiac

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Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.