Reviewed on 2007 March 7
You know how when you’re really anxious to see a movie, and you’re settled in with your box of popcorn or candy and ready to go as the lights finally dim, there’s always one idiot that decides that now is a wonderful time to have a conversation with their friend, or whip out their cell phone? And the ratio of noisy idiots seems proportional to how badly you want to see the movie? I was ready to dispense some pain if anyone disturbed me during this movie, because I like David Fincher, and because movies based on actual events can be riveting if they’re done right. Fortunately, this movie pulled everyone in so thoroughly that I didn’t hear a peep. And was it ever done right.
The movie gets right down to putting its audience in the era, starting with the use of a vintage Paramount logo (I admit someone else caught that) and a great soundtrack. After a vicious opening scene, the focus is on the uproar caused by Zodiac Killer, and the long, frustrating attempt to catch him. He makes demands of the San Francisco Chronicle and others, and threatens to kill again if they’re not met. The Chronicle staff is understandably torn between setting a nasty precedent, or ignoring his demands and seeing more people die. Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), a cartoonist for the paper, is especially fascinated by the codes the Zodiac uses. He finds himself spending less time cartooning and more time talking to a cynical, heavy-drinking, chain smoking reporter named Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) about it. Graysmith is ultimately consumed by the case. While the press tries to walk the fine line between reporting and being responsible, the police are struggling with catching the psycho. The film shows the frustrations and bureaucracy inevitable when groups work together, even towards a common goal.
You wouldn’t think Fincher can hold your interest in red tape and fingerprints for almost three hours, but he does it effortlessly. Zodiac deals primarily with the investigation, but there are still parts that are brutal to watch. One scene made me tear up. The use of humor is spare but there is one very funny bit when Avery and Graysmith are in a bar, discussing the case. The acting is unilaterally good, the scares are harrowing, and the music fits. From now on, when I hear Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” I’m going to look over my shoulder.
Four chocolate morsels.