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Zodiac: the new Fincher film

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Winslow Leach, Mar 2, 2007.

  1. Winslow Leach

    Winslow Leach Active Member

    So it was raining cats, dogs, otters, chipmunks and newts in my neck of the woods this afternoon. I had a day off, so I decided to take in a matinee, and check out the new David Fincher film, Zodiac, based on the best-selling Zodiac and Zodiac Unmasked, by Robert Graysmith.

    I'm a big fan of Fincher. It's been five years since his last film, Panic Room, and I've been waiting to see what he would do for an encore. While the director doesn't quite top his Se7en or Fight Club, Zodiac is an entertaining, chilling film about the policemen and newspeople who tried to track down a serial killer known as the Zodiac in late-1960s San Francisco.

    Jake Gyllenhaal is Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle. Although it is not his beat, Graysmith soon becomes interested in the Zodiac case, and strikes up a friendship with the Chronicle's star reporter, Paul Avery (Robert Downey, Jr., in one of his best performances).

    The Zodiac sends taunting letters and pieces of evidence to the Chronicle. He demands the paper print his letters, or there will be more killing. Meanwhile, police officer David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and his partner (Anthony Edwards) try to crack the case, but keep getting dead ends. In one humorous scene, the cops interview several people who confess to the crimes, but are obviously cranks. After the cops see Dirty Harry, the Clint Eastwood classic about a killer based on the Zodiac called "Scorpio," one of the exiting patrons asks Toschi, "so how did it feel seeing Dirty Harry catch the Zodiac?" Ultimately, Graysmith becomes obsessed with the case, finding clues in the puzzles and symbols the Zodiac uses to taunt the police. His obsession ultimately leads to strains in his relationships with Avery, Toschi and his own wife (Chloe Sevigny). Soon Graysmith begins receiving mysterious phone calls...

    Zodiac is probably Fincher's least intense movie to date. Compared to the frenetic Fight Club, Zodiac is Fincher in restraint mode. The film moves at a leisurely pace, running 2 hours and 40 minutes. There is very little action, and most of it is dialogue-driven. I'm not giving anything away by saying the Zodiac case was never solved. To this day, the case remains open, but in the film (and his books), Graysmith makes a convincing case as to who the Zodiac might have been.

    The cast is excellent. There is fine support from John Carroll Lynch, John Getz, Clea DuVall, Adam Goldberg, Philip Baker Hall, Dermot Mulroney, Elias Koteas, Brian Cox and Donal Logue. Downey has one of his best roles in years as the flamboyant Avery, pursuing the story even as the killer makes a public threat on his life (he and some of his colleagues wear large buttons that proclaim, "I'm not Avery" when out on the streets). In a large, sprawling film like this, the audience needs someone to identify with. Gyllenhaal is more than up to the task, starting out as a wide-eyed innocent whose cartoons are considered mostly inadequate by his editor, to a determined, investigative reporter, desperately trying to crack the case, even after the police all but give up hope.

    Fincher's eye for detail is outstanding. The film looks as if it was made in the 1970s, perhaps wedged somewhere in between The Parallax View and All the President's Men. It has a great soundtrack of period tunes and a strong screenplay by James Vanderbilt.

    In another nifty nod to the past, the film opens with the old, long-since retired logos of Paramount and Warner Bros. (the studios behind the film).

    In all, Zodiac was a satisfying, entertaining film. Don't expect the usual flashy Fincher trademarks. The film is a leisurely police procedural drama, that moseys along for 160 minutes.

    I give it a B+
  2. Speed Tracer

    Speed Tracer Well-Known Member

    I'm seeing this tomorrow... I really can't wait. Fincher's a big reason why I want to make movies.

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