Zodiac (2007) (R)

David Fincher enjoys a good serial killer. We see that in "Se7en" and "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". He is also prone to mind games which is evident in his Stieg Larson adaptation as well as "The Game" and "Fight Club". In fact, the only movies of his career that don't fit feel like they match the rest are "The Social Network" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button". "Zodiac" was the last movie that I needed to see before I had viewed all of Fincher's movies, and it is a great note to go out on.
"Zodiac" has so many references that could be made to it. You have every other Fincher movie to compare it to (which I think I already made a stab at) and then you have every other serial killer, cop, thriller, and suspense movie thrown in for good luck. It's amazing that this film managed to stay afloat under all the critiquing and pressure. Then again, that's what you get when you put David Fincher in the director's chair.
"Zodiac" is a story of three men and a ghost.
The movie opens on July 4, 1969 at night. In typical 'Fincher fashion' (which is fun to say...try it), every night scene has something important to convey. Whether it's going to be gritty or not, well, you just have to assume the worst. Sure enough, a woman and a much younger man get into a car and drive off to a park in order to have privacy.
While they're sitting in the vehicle talking, a car pulls up behind them.
Right from the start, Fincher gets you on the edge of your seat because he knows how an audience thinks. He directs as if he's watching the movie in a theater.
This car pulls away—inside my head I was screaming at the couple to pull out and go away, but of course, that doesn't happen. The car returns and blocks them in, gunshots are fired.
Then a 9-1-1 call is placed telling the responders where to find the bodies of the couple—the man calling it confesses to killing the couple and then hangs up.
So begins this long and thrilling work that manages to never feel cheap, forced, or insincere.
Enter Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) a cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle and all around "nice guy". He's a Eagle Scout who never smokes, drinks, or curses.
It's a morning just like any other when a letter comes in to the editor's office. This letter has a cypher attached to it—it's from an unnamed individual who claims to have killed several people. This addresser lists confidential information about the crime scene to prove his authenticity.
He tells the editors to run the cypher in the paper or else he will go on a killing spree. So they do. And soon a husband and wife crack the cypher which only leads to more puzzles.
This man is a clear-cut psychopath.
"Zodiac" is the story of Paul Avery (Robert Downey, Jr.) a writer at the San Francisco Chronicle who gets caught up in the case by simply being in the room. He is so determined to find the killer, who in later letters calls himself "Zodiac", that he risks his own sanity.
Lastly, "Zodiac" tells the story of Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) who becomes equally as obsessed with the case as the other two men in the film.
Each one of them ponders over the case in their own way. They get frustrated and follow false leads, write the wrong things, and sit back and say nothing when they should speak up.
David Fincher's visually dark directing style is at home in a movie like this. It's suspenseful in parts, humorous in brief moments, but altogether a well-seasoned film...intelligent and genuine. It's a surprisingly mature script from James Vanderbilt.
In many ways "Zodiac" reminded me of "Prisoners" (or would that be vice versa?) because it doesn't have the clean reveals that audiences love. It doesn't have the wild twists or the epic car chases (though to be fair, "Prisoners" indulges a little in that), but instead lets the movie slowly suck you in and entrance you.
David Fincher's talent is undeniable, his story telling ability is unquestionable—"Zodiac" proves that Fincher is one of the best current directors and a force to be reckoned with.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

Note: This review is based on the Director's Cut.

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