Between 1968 and 1983, a San Francisco cartoonist becomes an amateur detective obsessed with tracking down the Zodiac Killer, an unidentified individual who terrorizes Northern California wi... Read allBetween 1968 and 1983, a San Francisco cartoonist becomes an amateur detective obsessed with tracking down the Zodiac Killer, an unidentified individual who terrorizes Northern California with a killing spree.Between 1968 and 1983, a San Francisco cartoonist becomes an amateur detective obsessed with tracking down the Zodiac Killer, an unidentified individual who terrorizes Northern California with a killing spree.
When David Fincher's ZODIAC opens with the year "1969" on the screen, a colorful wide angle shot of California, and a song from "Hair" on the soundtrack, we think we know what we are in for: an atmospheric historical epic. Then the film's first murder happens, and we are at the San Francisco chronicle with Jake Gyllenhall and Robert Downey, Jr., just recognizable enough under their period garb.
We see three other murders or almost-murders within the first 1 1/2 hours of this 2 1/2 hour movie, and they are terrifying in a way that few movie murders are: this is one of the only movies that succeeds at making you identify with the victims, and the murder scenes contain enough gore to be convincing but not so much gore that it becomes its own aesthetic, as in other Fincher films.
But ZODIAC is so long that eventually, the murders fail to keep our attention. The movie makes so many leaps through time and recounts so many investigations that lead nowhere, it is easy to forget that it began as an exciting movie.
One could easily argue that the movie has a right to be so uneventful because it is a "realistic" reflection of police procedure and of, well, reality. It is, but one can't help but think, With all the time-lapsing that goes on (it constantly jumps months ahead in the late '60s and early '70s, and then jumps from '73 to '77 to '83 to '91), why couldn't it skip more boring parts? The movie manages to be both too truncated and too thorough.
On a positive note, the digital cinematography by Harris Savides gives the film a consistently interesting look, which is something that many better movies don't have. He gives the film the signature "Fincher" look: saturated pastels in the daytime and a vague yellow-green tint at night. The movie is visually interesting without being calling too much attention to itself, but it's a shame that there's not enough to watch. The actors are sufficient, but the movie has no protagonist and we don't get to know anyone well enough - not even Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhall), who becomes the de facto main character half way through.
The friendship between Graysmith and Paul Avery (Robert Downey, Jr.) - particularly a bar scene in which Graysmith introduces Avery to the merits of girly drinks - is interesting enough, but when Avery ceases to be a major character, we don't get enough of an indication that Graysmith has a life outside of his obsession with the Zodiac case. That may have been the point, but it doesn't work: there is nothing wrong with a plot that goes nowhere if the characters manage to hold our interest, but they don't hold our interest for all 2 1/2 hours, and the movie itself seems to lose interest in Graysmith towards the end. ZODIAC has no pay-off, which wouldn't be a problem if it weren't such a plot-driven film.
Still, it has its moments that nearly redeem it. It's a bit like a friend who tells long and meandering but enthusiastic stories: once you realize that his stories will always be too long, you can focus on the better parts. But his stories are still too long.
- Aug 1, 2007