“Man is the most dangerous animal of all.”
#2 of David Fincher Series
Zodiac is not the usual serial killer film. The serial killer murders actually take a backseat in the film and instead we focus on the people involved with solving the case. This brings an interesting perspective to the most infamous serial killer of the Bay area in the 60’s and 70’s. Along with the “David Fincher touch” and a very talented cast, this makes for a truly engrossing recounting of the terrible crimes that actually took place 50 years ago.
Plot: A serial killer by the name of Zodiac is writing to several San Francisco newspapers, including The San Francisco Chronicle, taking responsibility for several murders that have occurred. Soon, the Zodiac starts affecting more than just his victims as several people become obsessed with the case, including Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), a cartoonist for the Chronicle, and Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo), the detective assigned to the case. Graysmith teams up with Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.), an investigative reporter, in trying to track down who the Zodiac is.
It’s clear that Fincher and the rest of the crew really wanted to make an accurate portrayal of the Zodiac killings and the case in general. Their attention to detail is very evident in the movie and you can tell they didn’t want this movie to be in any way a horror movie or even a thriller. They just wanted to accurately depict the terrible events that happened and focus on the people who were deeply involved with the case rather than focusing solely on the Zodiac.
The scenes in which we do see the Zodiac attacks, you can tell that Fincher tried to stay very honest to what actually happened and in no way glorify it. I know that they actually talked to survivors of the attacks in order to maintain accuracy. If there wasn’t a way for Fincher and James Vanderbilt, the screenwriter, to know exactly what happened, they kept it out of the movie. This is why we don’t see the first Zodiac attack take place in the film, because there weren’t any survivors to tell them how it happened. This attention to detail is apparent when we watch the scenes and makes them all the more chilling. Especially in the scene pictured above. It feels very honest to what happened and is actually hard to watch at some points.
There are many scenes in the movie where they turned to CGI in order to provide the right atmosphere of the movie, as in many of Fincher’s other movies. San Francisco has obviously changed a lot during the last 50 or so years so this is understandable. It’s done very well and you actually don’t realize what you are watching has been created on a computer. These awesome visual effects, along with the dark/gritty look that we also saw in Fight Club give this film just the right amount of eeriness that it needs.
All of the work that they put in to making the movie feel accurate in regards to the time period and events that took place also serves to elevate the actor’s performances. The cast in this movie is excellent, as each actor seems very focused on providing a great performance that does the real person that the character is based on justice. Gyllenhaal is of course the actor that we see most of and his character really drives the movie forward. Robert Downey Jr. is his usual flamboyant character that brings a little color to the cast and Mark Ruffalo is also great as the detective who is seriously invested into finding out who the Zodiac is. Another stand out is John Carroll Lynch as Arthur Leigh Allen, the man that Ruffalo and Gyllenhaal’s characters believe to be the Zodiac. Although only in a few scenes, Lynch’s small appearance is chilling and believable.
All of the awesome aspects of this film really outweigh the small flaws that otherwise could have hindered my opinion of it. The plot seems to ramble on in some parts and many strange events that are shown to us are forgotten about and never explained later, despite the movie being almost three hours long. These were just small disturbances that didn’t have too much affect on my opinion of the film though. In the end, Fincher gave us a very authentic depiction of a still unsolved case, in which his dedication to only showing us the facts truly makes for an enthralling movie.