Director David Fincher has delivered some of the more intensely dramatic movies of the last ten years. Se7en, The Game, Fight Club and Panic Room all come to mind. This fact alone would be enough to lead us to believe that his latest serial flick, like Se7en before it, would be a roller coaster of twists and turns leading up to a shocker of an ending.
It turns out that Zodiac, based on the real life killer that plagued San Francisco in the 1970s, is anything but a shocker. In fact, we already know how it is going to end, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t want to watch it anyway.
Zodiac stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain) as Robert Graysmith, the San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist who would eventually go on to write a few best selling books about the infamous Zodiac killer. The story follows Graysmith’s journey from looking over the shoulder of crime beat reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) to working with Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) years later as he worked to uncover the true identity of elusive Zodiac.
The elusiveness of the Zodiac was only heightened by the fact that he would taunt the public of the Bay area by writing letters to the papers or calling into television talk shows to profess his love for murder. The spectacle was enough to put the entire city of San Francisco into a state of terror for over a decade, its denizens cautiously awaiting the next sign of the Zodiac, or worse yet, the dead body.
It seems odd to make a film about a real life serial killer whose case is still open and which to this day remains unsolved, but David Fincher pulls it off as only he can. The tension of the film continues to build from one letter to the next, one murder to the next, and while we know it doesn’t lead to anything, we are intrigued nonetheless. Fincher’s style is also unmistakable in the film. Visually he uses long, slow pans over the city and some cool camera angles (birds-eye view in some spots) to give the film a constantly fresh feel, helping to dilute the fact that the flick is almost three hours long. Also complementary is the score, which has a funky, light beat that gives the film a much needed rhythm. These things are signs of Fincher’s immaculate attention to detail, a trait that sets him apart from your average director.