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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

ZODIAC (2007) - David Fincher

In 1995, David Fincher made a huge impact with a film that dealt with a particularly nasty serial killer in Se7en. In Zodiac, Fincher returns to this subject matter albeit using the real life case of Zodiac killer and the policemen and reporters who struggled to find the faceless killer. Based on the Robert Graysmith book of the same title, Zodiac recounts the events that gripped the people of San Fransisco in the 1970's, as an unknown serial killer took lives at random and taunted the police by sending letters and cyphers to be published in a few newspapers. At the San Fransisco Chronicle, a reporter named Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jnr.) and Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), then a cartoonist for the newspaper, take on the case and soon become obsessed with finding out who Zodiac is. Meanwhile, Inspectors David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and William Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) are assigned to the case and set about trying to piece together the few clues left behind at the crime scenes as to who the mystery killer is. However, evidence doesn't add up, and both teams find that discovering the identity of the Zodiac killer is quickly becoming an obsession.

If you're going to the cinema expecting a film similar to Se7en, you'll be disappointed. But that is the only disappointment you'll suffer in this film. While the serial killer element is similar between each film, where as Se7en was a straight up thriller, Zodiac is a character study of how an obsession can affect your personal life. The three central characters of Avery, Graysmith and Toschi each find themselves consumed with finding and stopping this killer. But each of them deal with the obsession in different ways. Graysmith, the young, squeaky-clean boy scout states puzzles as a past-time, and this is the ultimate puzzle. Avery, a cocky, self-important opportunist, strives to solve the case ahead of the police, and thus push his profile. And Toschi, the original inspiration for Dirty Harry, is a cop looking to solve a case he cant let go.

Fincher's attention to detail is absolutely fantastic, creating the atmosphere of the late 60's- early 70's in a manner that recalls another great newspaper film- All The President's Men. While this isn't the same film as Se7en, Fincher still manages to throw in some white-knuckle moments, something he has quite a talent for. Where as some of Fincher's work had really showcased his flare for style, Zodiac shows just how good of a story teller he is.
Mark Ruffalo is the best of a great cast. He presents us with a Toschi who's determination to solve the case is apparent, but never borders on irrational obsession. His career takes a bit of a beating because of the case, which also wears down his partner, but Toschi, ever the cop, never gives up. Robert Downey Jnr. is again on form as the arrogant Avery, who's obsession leads to a breakdown in his personal life, something I'm sure the actor can relate to. And Gyllenhaal brings a youthful innocence to the character of Graysmith, graduly building on the obsession until it nearly costs him everything. Brian Cox, Elias Koteas, Donal Logue and Philip Baker Hall also turn up in small roles, and are all on top form. Only Chloe Sevigny seems to be relegated to the fretful wife role as she watches her husband, Graysmith's obsession overtake him.
At an arse-numbingly long 2 hour 38 minute running time, Zodiac might leave some viewers shifting in their seats. But for those looking for an excellently written character study and thriller, Zodiac will reward them. After a 5 year hiatus, David Fincher is back. And we're all the better for it.


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