David Fincher’s masterful Zodiac, one of the best of 2007 and one of the best DVD releases in 2008, is finally available in North America on Blu-ray, coming a year after receiving the high-definition treatment on HD DVD and being released less than a week after the multiple Academy Awards nominations for Fincher’s follow-up, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It examines the Zodiac killer who terrorized San Francisco and the surrounding areas in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s from the perspective of the people trying to solve the case, specifically political cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo).
The review of the film can be found here.
The Blu-ray 2-Disc Director’s Cut is essentially the same as the HD DVD. The video is again presented in 1080p High Definition with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The film was mainly shot with Thomson’s Viper FilmStream high-definition (HD) video cameras and is exquisite to look at with no grain to be seen. Traditional high-speed film cameras were used for slow-motion murder sequences and the blood was added digitally.
The color scheme uses a lot of brown and earth tones because, as Fincher told American Cinematographer, “part of the approach on Zodiac was to make it look mundane enough for people to accept that what they’re watching is the truth. We didn’t want to hype anything or design anything to be seductive.” However, the yellows are a vibrant golden hue that shine brightly throughout.
There is great detail in the textures, which is evident with objects like tracks in the dirt, wall panels, and suits. The effects shots that alter the city to take it back in time look flawless and aren’t betrayed by the high definition.
The audio has been changed from Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 to 5.1 Dolby TrueHD; however, there's not much for the surround to do. The front speakers do most of the work with the rears offering just a little ambiance, although not enough to engulf the viewer within the scene. The subwoofer doesn’t get used much either.
The “speshul” features on both discs are the same as featured on the HD DVD. There are two commentary tracks on disc one. Fincher’s commentary is a tad dry, but he reveals a lot of information about the making of Zodiac and the tricks involved in bringing the screenplay to life. Growing up in Northern California during the film's events gives him an affinity for the story and location, so he discusses what he thinks about different elements of the case. The other commentary is actually two different sessions edited together, actors Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. (Paul Avery) on one, and producer Brad Fischer, screenwriter James Vanderbilt, and crime author James Ellroy, a great fan of the film, on the other. These exchanges are more engaging than Fincher's monologue. The actors mainly talk about their work while the other group elaborates about the film and the real-life Zodiac story. The features on disc two, most of which are presented in HD, will keep enthusiasts of Zodiac and the actual case engaged.
Zodiac is likely to be in the discussion in a couple of years when critics gather to determine the best film of the current decade, so get yourself prepared. Blu-ray is the best way to experience it, unless you picked the wrong side in the HD format war.