Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Zodiac didn't fare so well at the box office, which is too bad. It's a thoughtful, beautifully crafted film about a police detective' and, in particular, a cartoonist turned writer's obsessive quest to identify the Zodiac killer. The murders, committed in the 60s remain unsolved, although the movie has a thesis about the killer's identity. That's because the movie uses the works of the cartoonist turned writer Robert Graysmith, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, as important source material. Don't click through if you want to maintain the suspense.

The movie isn't a serial killer movie, there is in fact only brief moments of violence or even action. The movie is much more about the search for information by Graysmith and police detective David Toschi, supposedly the model for Dirty Harry. This is probably what kept people away. What makes it much more interesting is the slow deterioration of the reporters and police involved in the case. The failure to solve it destroys much of their lives.

Aside from the character studies the period detail that David Fincher applies is fantastic. In an opening shot of San Francisco, the skyline has been altered to remove buildings constructed since 1968 and the Embarcadero Freeway is digitally added. Even backdrops of key scenes were digitally altered to make them as they were.

Emphasizing the long, drawn out impact of the obsession, Fincher shows the TransAmerica tower under construction as means of time moving and he also uses musical cues to the passage of time. You know Graysmith has been on the path for awhile when Baker Street is playing.

I have one complaint. There is a good deal of argument out there against the thesis that Graysmith lays out, but the film doesn't address these arguments. It is only a movie of course, and it does not explicitly say this person is the killer, although it effectively does so. In so doing though, it helps extend Graysmith's obsession to the viewer. As soon as I finished the movie, I read the Wikipedia entry and read about the many theories.


Anonymous said...

Agree - smart film that was a lot better than many people gave it credit for. My one complaint? Not enough Robert Downey Jr. I wanted to see the movie that stars *his* character.

Tripp said...

Yes I was disappointed when he fell out of the narrative, he was really quite interesting