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Overall Rating
4

Awesome39.77%
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 Rob Gonsalves

"The Academy had better remember this one next year."
5 stars

A certain kind of journalistic sorcery can make you believe a movie is absolutely real. A density of fact, a camera that whisks us into the action while never calling attention to itself, a lack of the expected Hollywood narrative beats — all of these add up to something deeper than fiction and richer than documentary.

In Zodiac, directed by David Fincher (Seven) from a crackling script by James Vanderbilt, the various characters circle around the Zodiac killings of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s as if drawn towards an existential black hole. The killer taunts them, idly muses about future atrocities he doesn’t bother to carry out. His very existence is an affront to the professionalism of the California police and reporters — and one editorial cartoonist — who track his every move. In a way, the Zodiac becomes their dark god, appearing at intervals with maddening omens.

Zodiac is not an exploration of the killer, who in any event was never caught, though the cartoonist — Robert Graysmith, who wrote two books about the Zodiac case — is pretty sure he knows who did it. It’s a mammoth police procedural, running a leisurely two hours and 38 minutes, yet the editing (by Angus Wall with Kirk Baxter) keeps the scenes clipped, taut, compressed. This is the film equivalent of a big, thick paperback full of crime photos and clippings and digressions that usually don’t mean anything but sometimes do. David Fincher, who in movies like Fight Club and Panic Room had been falling a bit too much in love with his own stylistic perfume, approaches Zodiac humbly, without fuss or excess, and winds up delivering his most electrifying film to date.

Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) hangs around on the margins of the case, working out the Zodiac’s coded messages and making connections no one else makes. But he’s seen as an eager-beaver kid by people a generation removed from him — people like the jaded detective Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and the shambling reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.), neither of whom take Graysmith very seriously until he’s stayed on the case long after everyone else has fallen away in exhaustion. Gyllenhaal anchors the movie in enthusiasm passing over gradually into obsession, but once again Robert Downey Jr., the hippest skull-and-crossbones in the room, mutters his way in and out of scenes and casually steals the movie.

Shot by Harris Savides using the new digital process Viper, Zodiac looks nothing like most of today’s drab, monochromatic films; warm, natural light is used whenever possible, and the movie, right down to its old-school Paramount logo, could be shown alongside a run of Sidney Lumet or Alan Pakula films from the ‘70s and not look out of place. Zodiac has considerable menace (especially its use of Donovan’s shivery “Hurdy Gurdy Man”) but very little violence, though Fincher makes the most of it. One attack takes place on a bright sunny day in an idyllic setting, and it’s filmed as a well-lit grindhouse horror that brings to mind the rougher scenes in Last House on the Left. A late scene, fairly terrifying, finds Graysmith at the home of a film aficionado played by Charles Fleischer with quietly nightmarish creepiness. Graysmith is alone in a basement with a man who could be the Zodiac. Nobody knows Graysmith is there, nobody will come save him, and the man has just turned out the light. We know Graysmith survived to write the books this movie is based on, but for a few moments we forget.

Overall, Zodiac is a stuffed package, a densely woven tapestry of data and entertainment. It ends, by necessity, on a rather flat note. Fincher, a modern master at sending the audience out buzzing, restrains himself this time. Graysmith gets what he wants, after a fashion, and the movie ends on the haunted face of the Zodiac’s first target. The movie’s refusal to fabricate an easy, manipulative finale will frustrate some and gratify others.

Somehow, this thorny, stop-and-start, difficult work made it through the studio system and into thousands of theaters, reminding us what movies can do better than any other medium. 'Zodiac' is the most beautifully shaped and satisfying big Hollywood film in years.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=15568&reviewer=416
originally posted: 03/04/07 15:47:07
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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
7/20/10 PAUL SHORTT RIVETING, WELL MADE THRILLER 4 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
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  02-Mar-2007 (R)
  DVD: 24-Jul-2007

UK
  18-May-2007 (15)
  DVD: 24-Sep-2007

Australia
  17-May-2007 (MA)




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