I have never been one of those people who are interested in shows like the CSI franchise; it just does not do anything for me. But I do know that these shows are hugely popular and millions of people tune in to watch every week. If you are one of those watchers then the film Zodiac should interest you. It, to me, was nothing more that a fact by fact recreation of the police investigation of the Zodiac serial killer case in the 1960s-70s. For a film, unless it brings me a new way of looking at things or a new theory, it’s kinda like what is the purpose?
During the 1960s and 1970s in the Bay Area in California there was a serial killer who frightened people with his murders. To this day the case is still open and has not been solved. The self-dubbed Zodiac killer would taunt the police with his letters for many years telling them how smart he was and how incompetent they were. Zodiac loved seeing himself in the press/news.
Everything begins on July 4, 1969 in Vallejo, California when two young people are gunned down on a deserted lovers’ lane. The young lady is killed, but the boy, Mike (Lee Norris – from television’s One Tree Hill), survives. A letter is received shortly afterwards by the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. Included in the letter is a coded message which the Zodiac dares them to crack. The case instantaneously catches the attention of crime reporter David Avery (Robert Downey Jr. – Chaplin, Good Night, And Good Luck) and political cartoonist, Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal – Brokeback Mountain, The Day After Tomorrow). Graysmith is an outsider who is attracted to the case due to his love of puzzle and he and Avery start up an odd type of friendship due to their interest in the case.
As the murders and letters continue, Detectives Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo – 13 Going on 30, Just Like Heaven) and William Armstrong (Anthony Edwards – from television’s ER) are brought in to investigate the case. Due to the fact that the killings take place in different districts different police departments have to work together. Unfortunately, due to human error and lack of effective communication, this does not go so well. The longer the case goes on without being solved the more Toschi, Avery and Garysmith become obsessed with finding the killer.
Director David Fincher up to this point had made films which disturbed people (Seven), involved plenty of violence (Fight Club), were intelligent (The Game), and had plenty of tension (Panic Room). Zodiac, is nothing like his previous films and that is a bad thing. The film is simply just an overly thorough to the point of boredom recreation of every little detail of the Zodiac case. The police department of San Francisco became more and more frustrated with the case they were unable to solve and I felt similar emotions while watching this film. Fincher presents us with a film seemingly done for those in the audience suffering from OCD. The case is gone over with a fine tooth comb and points are hammered home over and over.
Though the film portrays a series of murders in which the killer was never caught it never scared me. I did not worry that the killer was still out there I just worried that I would never see the end of this film (which has a running time of 2 hours 38 minutes, just to warn you). I felt like I was being held prisoner by someone who is obviously obsessed by the case as much as novelist Robert Graysmith was. Fincher shows us a film that is full of dead-ends and obsessions. This left me frustrated as opposed to wanting to know more. For me the thrill is gone. We know what is going to happen before it even happens so there is none of the required tension. The acting in the film is very good, but it is definitely the director’s vision which weakened the picture’s potential.