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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 29.55%
Average: 25%
Pretty Bad: 2.27%
Total Crap: 3.41%

8 reviews, 40 user ratings

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Zodiac (2007)
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by Marc Kandel

"David Fincher makes guns and knives scary… you know, again."
4 stars

When “Based On” appears onscreen, one expects a more sensationalized conclusion than what reality often presents. David Fincher doesn’t play this card with "Zodiac," daring to keep pace with the labyrinthine investigation year by year, presenting the hard, grinding work put in to draw even the most ephemeral conclusions about the man who terrorized California for ten months- and wonder of wonders, he keeps it entertaining.

Zodiac is an adaptation of Robert Graysmith’s novel detailing his obsessive one-man investigation of and conclusions reached in the Zodiac serial murders of the 60’s and 70’s.

The film takes its time bringing Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhal) to the fore, first giving us a fly-on-the-wall perspective of the brutal killings, frenzied reactions, and gradually dwindling police and media investigations as the killer fades into obscurity after successfully thwarting the police numerous times during his predations and brazen, misleading correspondences. Four years pass, at which time Graysmith is drawn back in to answer the questions that remain unresolved to this day, though the film is kind enough to give us a taste of resolution, but only after providing no less than 3 viable suspects.

Fincher uses the uniform beige world that most 70’s era stories latch on to as atmosphere. The office fluorescents, dirty orange streetlights, stained cream color walls, the dim corridors and darkened homes, sunlight filtered through gold and brown curtians leech the blood from the faces of the characters. All the parties involved with the case appear physically drained. Even the sun seems to light in only sepia, save for one shot from atop the Golden Gate Bridge where for a moment, we rise above it all for a breath before plunging down into the slow progression to truth and revelation. I would be remiss to exempt the film’s most effective scene, that of the Lake Berryessa attack- as pure an example of evil under the sun as one could visualize, executed in a most unlikely setting, and easily the most unnerving, visceral and brutal of the attacks.

Fincher manages to keep the film flowing through the long years using a careful blend of tension, fear, comedy, desperation and curiosity. The film keeps a razor straight path built squarely on the brutal crimes and intricate, frustrating case, aptly juggling multiple characters that never veer from the through line, personal relationships neutered in the service of pursuit. There is no romance inserted in this film- a first date turns into an investigation, and a character’s marriage and start of a family all occurs off camera. The film's unspoken goal is capturing the double edged blade of obsession; everyone involved in the case suffers damage, the mystery and horror enveloping the lives of the Zodiac’s hunters to the exclusion of all else.

There isn’t a weak performance in the bunch: Jake Gyllenhal (giving the best I’ve seen from him since Donnie Darko), Robert Downey Jr. (blending dazzling wit and humor with all too real despair), Mark Ruffalo (a decidedly original, understated take on the jaded detective role- also the best I’ve seen from him), Chloe Sevigny, Anthony Edwards (good to have you back man), Elias Koteas and a host of supporting cast give their all, and turn in some winning performances. Even Donal Logue, an actor I have to take with heavy medication most of the time, turns in a respectable portrait of a county detective at his rope’s end.

David Fincher obviously has a great time exploring more of humanity’s dark edges, yet this is easily his most restrained work- almost as matter-of-fact as an Unsolved Mysteries episode at points, never lurid or exploitative even at its most wrenching. Fincher is an entertainer at his core though, and he still finds some time to have a little fun with the audience, providing the McGuffin scene of the year with a bowel watering encounter that is perhaps the most clever “Silence of the Lambs” lampoon ever done with nary a nod to tired old Hannibal. Jake Gyllenhal nearly jumps out of his skin, and let me tell you the audience I saw it with wasn’t far behind judging from the screams. Yet moments later, don't be surprised if you find yourself chuckling as well- even if its in simple relief.

I wasn’t sure how charitable I was going to be to a 2hr 40min crime drama by a director I've always been lukewarm on after a long day. I left happy to have put in the time for a good film, and I was wishing DePalma had found this balance in "Black Dahlia".

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originally posted: 03/04/07 10:49:26
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell 2 long but chilling 4 stars
1/06/11 David A. Mostly a documentary, but it gets scary when the Wallace Penny character gets into it. 4 stars
12/31/10 Simon Interesting source material, nice directing doesnt save the bland writing/pace; forgettable 3 stars
10/16/10 montedelasánimas Scary, realistic, sometimes perversely fun. Don't miss it. 5 stars
7/24/10 bagwell5 One of the best movies of the last decade. Long running time but always fascinating. 5 stars
7/05/09 MP Bartley Repeat viewings reveal more and more. An American classic. 5 stars
1/09/09 Anonymous. i loved it! 5 stars
7/27/08 Al from Bangkok Great. Nearly documentary in presentation, only riveting. 5 stars
3/05/08 ladavies Way too long, and not that memorable for me. 3 stars
1/23/08 Double M Finally a proper (and different) Fincher thriller, welcome back! Great directing and acting 5 stars
10/24/07 Ivana Mann The best serial killer movie since "Silence of the Lambs."Totally creepy & spellbinding! 5 stars
10/15/07 fools♫gold everything believable, everything enjoyable, everything just right 5 stars
9/01/07 Indrid Cold Well crafted but utterly bland, like a reenactment on Unsolved Mysteries. 3 stars
8/19/07 The Man If youre expecting a sensationalized thriller you may be disappointed. But its great. 5 stars
8/08/07 Dan Rizzi Terrific! Every performance here is outstanding, particularly Robert Downey Jr. 5 stars
8/05/07 Charles Tatum A modern day classic, riveting 5 stars
7/31/07 Monday Morning About 45 mins. too long, and Jake is about 150% too obsessed w/ the case. 3 stars
7/27/07 action movie fan good start but drags too much and has no suspense-a bit of a letdown 3 stars
7/03/07 William Goss Engrossing investigative epic is daunting in the best possible way. 4 stars
6/19/07 Jessiika My ass got really sore while i was watching it. I liked how he stabbed those people though. 3 stars
6/07/07 Germaine SO long. SO boring. Absolutely no depth or suspense. Terrible! 1 stars
5/23/07 MP Bartley Detailed, yet thoroughly absorbing. Superb performances. 4 stars
5/20/07 adam egas straight pimpin, loved it so much, soo good 1 stars
3/30/07 tracey I actually fell asleep and woke up to the cleaning crew staring at me. BORING. 3 stars
3/29/07 Lee A exciting thriller, that will haunt you long after the closing credit. 5 stars
3/21/07 carniv4 Good movie, but this tru story is not that compelling. Already forgotten it, 3 stars
3/17/07 Greg Holds your attention from start to finish, Downey is amazing! 5 stars
3/17/07 Jason Fisher Enthralling, absorbing from start to finish; no small feat for a movie nearly 3 hours long! 5 stars
3/14/07 Spark It BLOWS!!!! 1 stars
3/11/07 Pascal Boring, too long, no suprise, not even moving... very desapointing... 2 stars
3/10/07 dmitry Fincher's best because it doesn't just wallow in the grotesque 5 stars
3/06/07 Ryan Too long, too many details one some portions and not enough of others. Ending sucks 2 stars
3/06/07 George Jung Best film of 2007 so far. 5 stars
3/06/07 Luisa First half very engaging, but ran way too long... 4 stars
3/06/07 Gerald Sherfy Read the book instead; good performances and attention to detail but long in the tooth 3 stars
3/05/07 Edler Too long, no red-herrings, more like a documentary. But good to watch. 4 stars
3/04/07 Ole Man Bourbon Entertaining throughout its long run-time. Easy to recommend despite some reviews. 4 stars
3/04/07 E. N. Meticulously constructed; superlative filmmaking; a compelling and riveting film 5 stars
3/04/07 Shobert The longest episode of "Law & Order" I have ever seen. 3 stars
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  02-Mar-2007 (R)
  DVD: 24-Jul-2007

  18-May-2007 (15)
  DVD: 24-Sep-2007

  17-May-2007 (MA)

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