Archive Review: Zodiac (2007)

A fantastic cast and a compellingly told story make this one of my favourite Serial Killer movies out there. 

Certificate: 15

Director: David Fincher

Screenwriter: James Vanderbilt (screenplay), Robert Graysmith (book)

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo

Genre: Crime, Drama

Runtime: 157 Minutes

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewed by: Pearl

A serial killer in the San Francisco Bay Area taunts police with his letters and cryptic messages. We follow the investigators and reporters in this lightly fictionalized account of the true 1970’s case as they search for the murderer, becoming obsessed with the case. Based on Robert Graysmith’s book, the movie’s focus is the lives and careers of the detectives and newspaper people. – From IMDB

This film is less about the actual Zodiac killer than you would expect, considering he is the title character.  Instead, it is about how this series of murders and their illusive perpetrator infiltrated the lives of those that were investigating him and became an obsession.  We get a lot of films and series that tell the story of the killers, but we rarely get such an in depth look at how cases like that effect those on the other side. 

Ruffalo, RDJ and Jake Gyllenhaal are our three main characters and as you would expect from three such great names, they give amazing performances.  RDJ of course still managing to bring his over the top personality to the screen and get through the role by barely acting, but just delivering the lines as himself rather than being in character.  Mark Ruffalo as always is a solid performer even if he his wearing a particularly impressive set of sideburns for the majority of this film.

 It is Gyllenhaal’s character that goes through the biggest development here though.  He starts out as a meek newspaper cartoonist, too afraid to even speak up in meetings, and ends up being the one doggedly chasing after the killer, long after everyone else has given up.  His slow slip into obsession is the hardest to watch because we see how much he has to lose, and we do see him lose almost all of it.  Only really getting the payoff in the very last scenes of the film.

And it is that prolonged suspense that is the only criticism I have of this film.  It did not need to be as long as it was, and it is hard to keep the audience on the edge of their seat that long and maybe the editing could have been tighter in order to keep this film at around the two hour mark.  The unsolved nature of this crime in reality also means that we don’t really get the satisfying ending that we want.  We want to see the perpetrator caught and brought to justice, but sadly, that never happened, so we are left with the same assumptions and unanswered questions as the police and investigators had at the time.

Not necessarily the kind of serial killer film that you would expect, this is suspenseful and insightful.  Much more character driven than other films of it’s ilk, It is slower paced and feels a little long.  Still a fantastic and engrossing watch, ‘Zodiac’ is free to stream on Netflix now!

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