A well-known newspaper receives bloody strips of clothing and a series of encrypted letters from a serial killer threatening more victims.
No, the New University isn’t in any sort of danger, but back in the 1960s, the San Francisco Chronicle had a lot to fear from the Zodiac’s sporadic tauntings.
True story: In the late 1960s the Zodiac killer terrorized the inhabitants of the San Francisco Bay Area with five confirmed victims and 37 claimed murders. He then publicized his kills by calling morning shows and forcing newspapers to print his encrypted messages. As of 2004 the Zodiac investigation is now inactive; to this day, Northern Californian police departments are still baffled about the identity of the Zodiac killer.
David Fincher’s ‘Zodiac’ is based on the novel by Robert Graysmith, a former cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle during the height of the Zodiac killer’s murder spree.
For a two-hour-and-45-minute film, the suspense in ‘Zodiac’ builds steadily from each scene, but don’t expect any of the twists typical of a Fincher film like ‘Se7en’ or ‘Fight Club.’
‘Zodiac’ tries to stay faithful to Graysmith’s book. The gore is also surprisingly minimal for a film concerning a serial killer.
‘Zodiac’ centers on Graysmith, the journalists and the detectives involved in the Zodiac case. However, the ‘Zodiac’ storyline is only secondary to the actors’ performances.
Jake Gyllenhaal portrays Graysmith, the upstanding and, at times, socially awkward cartoonist.
Upon becoming intrigued by the Zodiac, Graysmith’s curiosity soon turns into an obsession which ravages his home and professional life. He appoints himself an amateur sleuth and his hunt for the serial murderer continues long after the Zodiac’s last message in 1974.
Though not a ground-breaking role for Gyllenhaal, he is fair to his character, who ties together the nearly three decades of investigation into the Zodiac killer that the film covers.
Yet the first part of the film is dominated by Robert Downey Jr.’s brief gig as ambitious San Francisco Chronicle reporter Paul Avery.
Downey adds some necessary comedy, preventing ‘Zodiac’ from becoming completely dark and consumed by nightmarish events.
Whether brushing off Gyllenhaal’s character or having an amusing scuffle with Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo), Downey conveys the spirit of the ’60s with an edge and steals each of his scenes.
The progression of Downey’s character, along with Graysmith’s and the detectives’, further displays the chaos of the Zodiac killer and the denigrating toll that the killings take on their lives.
Toschi remains impatient and stubborn throughout, but it’s Ruffalo’s ability to show Toschi’s dedication and determination to the Zodiac case, despite everyone else giving up, that makes his character credible.
Since the film is based on Graysmith’s novel, it heavily points the finger at Toschi’s and Graysmith’s No. 1 suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen. The film presents the factors that prevented Allen from being arrested but is strongly overshadowed by all the screen time and dialogue dedicated to Allen, which is a little unfair if he truly wasn’t the infamous Zodiac that menaced Northern California.
‘Zodiac’ is a film worth its nearly three-hour length and an auspicious way to usher in the films of 2007.
Rating: 4/5