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332 out of 381 people found the following review useful:

Not Your Average Serial Killer Movie (And That's a Good Thing)

9/10
Author: evanston_dad from United States
26 March 2007

"Zodiac" may frustrate viewers who come to David Fincher's latest film expecting a traditional serial killer thriller. The film begins with a couple of hair-raising and rather brutal recreations of murders carried out by the mysterious killer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay area in the late 1960s and early 1970s. These early scenes are shocking and, compared to the rest of the film, disorienting, because they offer the only time that we come close to seeing events from the killer's perspective. As the film progresses, the Zodiac killer himself fades into the background, and the movie turns into a meticulous and engrossing document of the investigation to track him down, an investigation that includes countless blind alleys and false clues and which to this day has not reached a conclusion. I would be more prone to label the somewhat rambling screenplay as sloppy storytelling if I did not feel that Fincher tells the story exactly as he wants to. The elusive narrative works, because the film is about an elusive villain.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist working for the "San Francisco Chronicle" at the time the Zodiac killer began his gruesome work. He becomes fascinated by the case, and takes it on as a sort of morbid personal hobby long after the police department has given it up as a lost cause. Graysmith eventually wrote the book on which this film is based, and according to his accounts, he discovered enough evidence about one of the suspects in the case to put the police back on his trail years after he'd been cleared for lack of evidence. Other characters come and go. Robert Downey, Jr. does characteristically terrific work as a reporter at the "Chronicle" who grabs his own portion of notoriety through his involvement in the case. Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards play the two detectives in charge of the investigation. Chloe Sevigny plays Gyllenhaal's put-upon wife, who gradually loses her husband to his obsession. All of the actors deliver thrilling performances, many of them against the odds. Since this isn't a character driven movie, many of the characters remain undeveloped, but not, for once, to the detriment of the film. This story isn't about the people involved, but rather about their role in the Zodiac saga; once they've served their purpose, Fincher dispenses with them. Ironically, a film that clocks in at nearly 3 hours exhibits a great deal of narrative economy.

Parts of "Zodiac" are intensely creepy. Fincher effectively uses the rainy San Francisco atmosphere to its maximum potential, and the grimy browns and grays of the production design call to mind Fincher's other well-known films, like "Seven" and "Fight Club." But "Zodiac" is much more grown up than those films, and for an audience to enjoy it, it has to have an attention span. Long scenes are given to analyzing handwriting samples, recreating the scenes of murders, digging through newspaper clippings and files. You can tell that Fincher is fascinated by police work in the pre-CSI era, when fax machines were still a novel invention. He delves into the investigative process with a nearly fetishistic attention to detail, but he makes all of it endlessly mesmerizing. He does his best to bring everything to some sort of conclusion, but the real-life end to the story makes a complete conclusion impossible. This film is more about the journey than the destination, and what a journey it is.

Grade: A

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314 out of 408 people found the following review useful:

Good, but not what you'd expect

8/10
Author: Wolf30x from Cincinnati, OH
2 March 2007

Usually when a film gets made about a media grabbing unsolved crime, the resulting movie tends to be overtly sensational and at best remotely connected to what really happened. Considering that director David Fincher's last film about a serial killer was the gripping but deeply disturbing Se7en, his take on the Zodiac killer almost seemed primed to be an extreme, nail-biting thriller.

Instead what he's given us is a well argued thesis on the possible identity of the Zodiac. While there are some very intense scenes, Fincher takes a somewhat unexpected approach on the subject. All of the killings take place pretty early on in the movie, with the bulk of the story centering on the actual investigation into the killer by both the cops and a cartoonist who becomes obsessed with the case. In fact, the depictions of the murders are done in a manner that is fairly reverent towards the victims while still conveying the cruelty of them.

Some people may find themselves disappointed by this two and a half hour epic if they go in expecting the usual serial killer fare. But it's a must see for any fan of Fincher's work, or anybody who likes a good detective story.

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363 out of 517 people found the following review useful:

Fincher's best? No. But still very good

8/10
Author: rs25 from United States
28 February 2007

I am tired of people writing comments like this, "Not Fincher's best". Honestly who cares. We all agree that Fincher's best is either Seven or Fight Club, two outstanding masterpieces. There is a big margin between a film like one of those and a terrible film, and people don't seem to realize that. These people even do this with other filmmakers like Spielberg or Scorsese, the fact that these filmmakers don't reproduce Schindler's List or Raging Bull doesn't mean that their new stuff isn't good, or worth seeing. I think it is a stupid way to comment on a film, eliminating the critic's credibility. I was lucky enough to catch an advanced screening of Zodiac last night, and I must say that at first I was discouraged by two things, some of the comments I have read and the running time. However I am glad to say that I enjoyed this film, very much. It is a solid suspense thriller that pins you to your seat. Being a true story adds quite a lot to the experience, and besides, Fincher did a wonderful job is staying loyal to the story and at the same time adding his unique flavor to it. The cinematography, like every Fincher film, is great, the darkness and griddiness of the story are perfectly portrayed in the film's visual elements. I was surprised by the picture quality of the Viper, the digital camera with which this film was shot. Many people have been criticizing this choice, but I respect it, he is embracing a new technology and making it work. Of course its still not a match to 35 mm, but if quality filmmakers don't start experimenting with it, it will never be. Now the reason why this film falls behind Seven and Fight Club, I think, is because of a problem with the characters. They seem to be a little weak at times. The performances were great, especially Robert Downey Jr., but I think that this film falls short, when it comes to a true exploration of complex characters, which is the key to Fincher's previous films.

So... my advice to everyone is to ignore most of the negative comments and see the film yourself. I found it to be a great story told in a remarkable way, very entertaining, with great performances, and wonderful direction.

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276 out of 364 people found the following review useful:

"This is the Zodiac speaking..."

10/10
Author: Cody (codyshaheen@gmail.com) from United States
2 March 2007

I have been highly interested and engrossed in the Zodiac killer story for the last 5 years now and I can say, without doubt, that this is the best and most accurate telling of the story. The film presents numerous details that were unknown to me before seeing it. All of these facts and theories are thrown together in a way that strings the viewer along, you think it's someone, then you get new information and that person is no longer a suspect. Fincher really puts you into the life of a detective working on the case. You feel just as excited when new information comes about and are equally disappointed when it leads to another dead end.

The film is beautifully shot (on VIPER digital cameras) and once again, Fincher shows us his wonderfully adept skills with CGI shots. All of the actors shine and truly become their characters. Jake Gyllenhall and Robert Downey Jr. put in excellent performances, as does Mark Ruffalo. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Phillip Baker Hall join the ensemble.

The only complaint I have heard that holds any water is that the film is too long. At roughly 2 1/2 hours, I can see how many would think that is long, but you have to realize that this is an intricate story with deep characters who need to be examined and understood. A standard 90 minute film, or even a two hour cut, would not have been able to tell the story as well. Character motivation and important details would have been left on the cutting room floor.

If you have followed the Zodiac case, you will be happy to see how well done this movie is. If you don't know anything about the case, you will be given an excellent story that will make you want to learn more about it. Regardless, you should do yourself a favor and see this movie. If nothing else, it's better than "Wild Hogs".

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211 out of 291 people found the following review useful:

The fear of the real and the unknown...

9/10
Author: (themoviemark@themoviemark.com) from http://www.themoviemark.com
2 March 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Dark. Moody. Atmospheric. All words to describe a candlelight dinner with Johnny Betts. But these words can also be used to accurately describe David Fincher's latest foray into the serial killer genre.

Zodiac has been on my "most anticipated" list for quite some time, but having watched many documentaries and read several articles on the subject, I couldn't help but wonder how the film could completely keep my interest when I already knew so much about the material. Plus, we're all aware that the case officially remains unresolved, so are we to resign ourselves to accept an unsatisfactory conclusion?

It took no more than the film's chilling opening scene to cast my fears aside and glue me to the seat for 158 minutes. My familiarity with the source material actually heightened my enjoyment because I was surprised at how accurately the film depicted the events. I recognized names and details that I wouldn't have otherwise.

I also feel that not definitively knowing the Zodiac's identity adds more suspense to the story. We're introduced to a number of suspects, and since this is, in part, one man's interpretation of circumstantial evidence, we're allowed to assume that any of the suspects could be the mysterious killer. It's a plot device that effectively keeps the viewer in a constant state of unease.

I know there are multiple theories on the Zodiac's identity, so you can argue that the film ends on an anticlimactic note. But the movie does have focus, and it presents a compelling case against one of the suspects in such a way that it delivers as much closure as you can expect.

The actors are great (especially Downey and his welcome comic relief), the atmosphere is foreboding, and the investigative process is engaging. It may run a little long for some, but I didn't mind the runtime at all. It's a fascinating case, and I wanted all the information the movie was willing to give me.

Zodiac is the kind of film that sticks with you. I was at a friend's house late after the screening, and when I arrived home I saw a lone car's headlights appear from up the street. My heart began to race a little as I hastened to my door. I knew then and there that a new Zodiac killer was in the vicinity, and I had no time to tarry.

It's been a while since a movie instilled that sort of realistic dread, and I don't know if that's a good thing, but it's certainly a sign (no pun intended) of the film's success in heightening our awareness of what kind of real-life monsters might be lurking in the shadows.

THE GIST

Zodiac gives viewers an excellent combination of nerve-racking suspense and desperately obsessed police procedural work. The majority of viewers with even the slightest interest in the case should be riveted. Those of you with a severely small attention span should probably stick to Norbit instead.

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201 out of 291 people found the following review useful:

Welcome Back, David Fincher.

10/10
Author: tman90
2 March 2007

Audiences have waited a while for a new piece of work from Mr. David Fincher and now that hiatus is officially over. Straying away from his style that earned him a 'cult' following, he brings out a new side to himself, some techniques not yet observed in his repertoire.

ZODIAC feels like it was made by a perfectionist, everything flows so smoothly. The editing is pinch-perfect. Not only that, but Ficher shows that he is an actor's director as well, directing his cast into true life roles wonderfully. But the credit does not go all on to his shoulders. The actors have a lot to do with that themselves. Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays the author of the book of the same name, plays his character with an irresistible 'nerdi-ness' that is just fun to watch. Then it is amazing to watch Gyllenhaal transform that character into an obsessed wannabe detective, losing all focus and normal aspects of his life. Mark Ruffalo plays a humorous and overworked cop with incredibility. He really gets the job done. Downey Jr., however small his role was, plays on the screen with a witty insanity that brings most of the laughs of the movie. The acting really is a major pro. ZODIAC may come out at a long time slot but the viewer will never realize it because of the film pulling one in, and not wanting to leave until the case is solved. That is why ZODIAC is fantastic and a great welcome back gift from Fincher to not only his fans, but to everyone. ZODIAC is definitely the best film of 2007 so far.

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143 out of 192 people found the following review useful:

Using the Facts to Create a Pleasing Crime Thriller

7/10
Author: Jeffrey Lubeck from Sun Valley ID
3 March 2007

Zodiac, David Fincher's film about the impact the San Francisco Bay Area serial killer's case had on three primary characters is delivered with great attention to detail and proper pacing. Zodiac is not a film that uses or relies on suspended disbelief to succeed and does not attempt to compress five years of story into one in order to keep viewers interested. Instead it relies heavily on the facts and uses all of its 158 minutes to present them in almost linear form and staccato fashion.

Set primarily in San Francisco in the late 1960's and 70's (and eventually the 80's) Fincher's Zodiac takes no artistic license by adding the obligatory car chase scene down Russian Hill, drug enhanced evening in Haight-Ashbury or conspiracy oriented behind the scenes moves by City Hall. Instead the audience is presented with a credible story that portrays how stress, tension, frustration and fascination play upon the lives of S. F. Police Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo), S.F. Chronicle Editorial Cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhall), and S.F. Chronicle reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.). Each of these people, as well as those surrounding them are operating well within the confines of every day life and the establishment. Fincher does not let Zodiac wander outside its central story, and therefore no editorial comment about the Vietnam War or similar events of the day are offered. Insights about the impact on the victims (who survive) or their families are only touched upon if they remain central to the story.

The initial scenes of the movie depict the killer in operation and they are not sugar coated. However, viewers wanting to see a film in the style of Fincher's Alien (3), Se7en or even Fight Club (i.e., blood and gore to almost surreal levels) should look elsewhere.

Zodiac is a well crafted production on all fronts. In addition to Fincher, the lead actors and extensive (and well known) supporting cast Zodiac producer's assembled a credible team. James Vanderbilt (Screenplay), David Shire (Score), Donald Burt (Production Design), Keith Cunningham (Art Direction), Victor Zolfo (Set Direction) and Casey Storm (Costume Design) all deliver quality work in their respective areas. There are no weak spots in this film. Zodiac may not (or attempt to) dazzle, but it does please.

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151 out of 209 people found the following review useful:

The Stranger Urban Americans Fear: A Killer Playing the Most Dangerous Game

10/10
Author: classicalsteve from Oakland, CA
3 April 2007

The era in which Zodiac takes place bridges two eras in urban America. The Zodiac appeared on the tail end of a crime-spree that rampaged across the US in the late 1960's. His settling in the SF Bay Area may be one of a number of social phenomenons that pushed America's view of itself out of an innocent 1950's sensibility and into a harder and darker view that became more prevalent starting in the 1970's and into the 1980's. People, even in urban areas, used to be far more trusting of one another, friendly, and civil. Many of the events of the 1960's gave urban Americans a much more cynical and cautious attitude toward people they didn't know. Don't trust or talk to strangers. Better to sacrifice helpfulness than to wind up dead. People are out to take advantage. At least in urban areas nowadays, it seems, people are much less willing to take the risk to meeting someone they don't know, largely out of fear.

The film Zodiac chronicles the strange unknowable and faceless figure that emerged as a serial killer in Northern California in the late 1960's and early 1970's. He sent letters to the San Francisco Chronicle and other newspapers, outlining his last and future kills, and he revealed he was inspired by the 1930's cult classic "The Most Dangerous Game". The point of view is largely from the side of the press with a character from SF Homicide that is also tracking the case. One character, Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an SF Chronicle cartoonist who at first takes an amateur's interest in the case, often bothering fellow beat journalist Paul Avery, played brilliantly by Robert Downey Jr. Only later does the cartoonist engage on his own investigation to reveal the identity of the Zodiac. When Graysmith begins receiving anonymous phone calls with nothing but heavy breathing, you can't help but wonder if he's also playing the same game, and if he may also become one of the hunted.

One of the most brilliant aspects of the film is its pacing. It never lets up and the suspense is always there, which becomes unsettling when you realize that these events actually took place instead of purely in the imagination of a modern suspense novelist. There is an eeriness which pervades the entire film. A car stopping unexpectedly in a nearly-deserted area is more frightening than most scenes in your average low-budget slasher flicks.

I do have a couple of shortcomings to this film. There are a couple of scenes where the cruelty and brutality of the violence is such that not all viewers will be able to handle this movie. I found I did have to turn away at a couple of scenes. Also, there are a couple of moments when the state of the investigation is not made clear. However, even given these shortcoming, Zodiac is a brilliant movie that tackles a subject-matter that probably could not have been brought to the screen during the period it depicts.

The Zodiac came to personify one of the constant fears of living in urban America: a faceless, emotionless killer that comes out of the shadows of a dark alley to commit heinous violence. In the end, we fear strangers because of this, but we end up sacrificing love. It is an ironic aspect of human nature that people can do to strangers what would be almost unthinkable to do to people that we know. In addition to the poor innocent people that were brutally murdered, the Zodiac committed another crime against humanity. He compromised our sense of trust, civility, and in many ways, love for our fellow human beings even when we might not know them.

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123 out of 178 people found the following review useful:

"Zodiac" – A Favorable Sign

8/10
Author: frankwhat from Lakewood, NJ
3 March 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I knew a good amount about this case going into the film as I always found the famous serial killer ones very interesting when I'd see a TV special about them on. It's also no secret that it's one of the few that went unsolvable to this day, so I really didn't know what to expect from a thriller that pretty much everyone already knows how it'll end. However "Zodiac" was made with a style that allowed the perspective to seem fresh, even if it ultimately wasn't. This is a must see for any true lover of real police work that gets down to the nitty-gritty of what detectives have to go through in actuality. No one's job is glamorized and in fact it's portrayed as the other way around…people get fired, demoted, or simply go flat out crazy. What fascinated me so much about the 'Zodiac Killer' more than the other murderers I've heard about was how he kept changing his methods, which is the main reason why he was able to elude capture for so long. All in all this made for one excellent cinematic puzzle that remained that way.

The biggest surprise of this movie was that David Fincher directed it. Even though he doesn't come out with many new films…with the exception of maybe "Panic Room", those that he does direct are both highly innovative and entertaining. However this effort strayed away from the beaten path and was very different from the type of flick he usually churns out, which turned out to be a worthy venture. While I still prefer the likes of "Seven" and "Fight Club", this was close to them in overall quality. So much detail was taken into account when recreating the time period and crimes. Even though the film was shot digitally they edited it so the appearance had a grainy texture as it did back in the 70's. Also the costumes, settings, modes of transportation, and everything else was matched to a T.

The acting was strictly topnotch here and the biggest kudos goes to Robert Downey Jr. He was absolutely amazing! It's sad that he's at his best when he's playing a character that gets lost in a world of drugs and alcohol as his life has imitated this art for quite some time. Nevertheless he was so amusing to watch and added a playful quirkiness to Paul Avery that I don't think it would've been possible to play him any better. While Robert easily stole the show, a very honorable mention was Mark Ruffalo. He did quite well too and while he usually does, this went above and beyond what he's normally capable of. It's evident that as decent as Mark always has been in the past, there's always room for improvement. Everyone else put in great turns too, and there wasn't a single performance that came close to being unbelievable.

Potential viewers should also be warned, this film isn't for everybody. There are a few very disturbing sequences, that while they aren't even terribly graphic…still manage to be creepy beyond belief due to their realism pertaining to the sheer coldness in which they're displayed. Another factor is the 160-minute running time, which except for the first third when the actual killings are taking place, quickly starts dragging on following that. All the facts had to be included though, so it really couldn't have been much shorter without losing its potency. You also have to remain open-minded if you watch it and can't demand any kind of closure except for what you can conclude on your own; otherwise you'll leave awfully disappointed. Finally it can be argued that only one viewpoint is being showed here and that is the author's, this automatically leads to a bias. I personally think it's the most logical account of events, but if you want an impartial take on what went down, your best bet is to watch a documentary on the history of events that took place.

It's very scary to think that such a gruesome individual could go about undetected for so long and that we'll never get to find out the real answer on who it was behind everything. Fincher's latest contribution is a compelling view for all those with strong stomachs and was eerily refreshing compared to what junk has been streaming out of Hollywood lately. There are many notable guest appearances and is quite simply a well-done movie, even if it did get hammed up a little bit. I personally am going to avoid secluded places for awhile…just in case my astrological sign reads anywhere near the same as it did for all the poor victims.

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88 out of 117 people found the following review useful:

Class Act

10/10
Author: cynical2205 from United Kingdom
19 May 2007

First up (and it's already been said)...this film is not going to appeal to the crash-bang- wallop-attention-span-of-a-bored-gnat brigade out there. Having read a lot of the reviews here, everyone seems to be divided in two. Love it...hate it. Which way will you go?

Yes, it's long. But let's face it, this is not a film that can be wrapped up in an hour and a half. There's an awful lot of detail involved in this case. David Fincher was very thorough in his research and full marks to him. This is an excellent, compelling film for anyone interested in true crime and general detective work.

I saw this film a few hours ago and was completely absorbed by it. The opening 4th of July sequence is worthy of the ticket price alone. And I challenge anyone to listen to "Hurdy Gurdy Man" by Donovan without a cold chill running down their spine after watching this...

The main performances are excellent - Robert Downey Jr and Jake Gyllenhaal in particular are a standout. Any feminists out there won't be happy with the rather one-dimensional women's roles (and I happen to be female), but this is not what this film is about. It's about a handful of men's obsessive involvement with one case. And these men ARE utterly obsessed. And after so much taunting by the Zodiac with his letters and cyphers, who can blame them for their obsession?

As for the depiction of the murders, they are quite shocking in their brief brutality with absolutely no glamorous or excessive lingering shots of the aftermath. This makes them infinitely more real and much more disturbing...

Combine this with utterly believable dialogue, a superb soundtrack and marvellous production design and you have one classy movie. For all those tired of your average eye and brain-candy fodder...Go see. For those who can't appreciate a class act when you see it, you've missed out...

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