Directed by David Fincher
Starring Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr, Jake Gyllenhaal
Paramount Home Entertainment
Release date: January 27, 2009
Serial killers are always an interesting, albeit morbid, subject to follow, and movies have made good use of them in the past as villains. Whether they are fictional killers such as Hannibal Lecter or real killers such as Jack the Ripper, film-goers have always gotten a good scare from the exploits of these intriguing specimens. It’s no surprise to see the director of one of the great fictional killer films take his turn at bringing the story of one of the great historical killers to life. What director David Fincher has created with Zodiac is one the greatest recreations of actual events ever. However, even beyond Fincher’s direction, the actors in this film have created performances that bring the characters and events to life.
For those who don’t know (which was me before I saw this film) Zodiac follows the career of the Zodiac killer, a serial killer in 1960’s San Francisco who killed five people, but was never brought to justice. The film follows the path of San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) as he tries to piece together the clues that could lead to the killer’s identity. His quest to find the killer is aided by two police detectives, Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and Bill Armstrong (Anthony Edwards), as well as fellow Chronicle journalist Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.). The film looks at how each one of them deals with the obsession of trying to track down the killer, more than trying to present a theory of who the killer actually is. We see how some of the characters are able to get themselves out of the investigation, and how others, particularly Graysmith, are unable to move past it, spending increasingly large amounts of time in a fruitless effort. In the end, the film is all about obsession, whether it be the killers desire for attention or the hunters desire to catch him.
You can’t really describe this film as a thriller or a suspense film. Outside of one or two scenes towards the end of the film, there are not a lot of scares in this film. The way I’d best describe Zodiac is almost as a documentary. The film makers went out of their way to make sure that the depiction of events was as close to the actual events as possible. You can see the attention to detail in the sets and clothing but most importantly, in the depiction of the crimes that the Zodiac killer is infamous for. Watching the special features, you see the efforts that they went through to make sure that nothing was left to chance, as they involved as many people connected to the case as possible.
All of the actors do a spectacular job, but particular attention should be given to Gyllenhaal and Ruffalo. They both hold the film together, and it’s their characters that we follow through most of the film. Robert Downey Jr plays the Robert Downey Jr character, which means he’s a sarcastic drunk who doesn’t play by the rules. You can look at this as a good or bad thing, depending on your opinion of Downey Jr. I took it as a good thing, as he brings some humor to an otherwise fairly bleak film. All in all, the entire cast does an extremely good job of bringing the time period to life.
If you’re someone who’s interested in serial killers in general, or the Zodiac killer specifically, you will want to check out this dvd. The first disc holds the extended cut of the film as well as a commentary by Fincher and one by some of the actors and crew. However, the second disc is a treasure trove of information on the events depicted in the film, including an exhaustive look at the production and an exhaustive documentary featuring interviews with the investigators and victims of the events. There’s a ton of info to get into, and after watching the film, you’ll want to look into the history behind the events.
This is a great film that everyone should check out, and this is the definitive edition of the film, so if you’ve already seen it, you’ll still want to check this out. The film makes this worth your time, and the extras make it doubly worth it.