Zodiac ★★★★★

Inarguably one of the finest mystery-thrillers ever made, Zodiac is a masterwork of extensive research, first-rate craftsmanship & precision detailing that approaches its police-procedural premise in an incredibly authentic manner. In addition to that, the level of accuracy the picture is able to maintain with the conducted real-life investigation turns it into an instant classic right away.

The film details the manhunt for the notorious serial killer whose killing spree occurred around the San Francisco Bay Area during late 1960s to early 1970s and who used the titular alias when addressing his letters to newspapers along with ciphers. The story covers the life of detectives & reporters who slowly become obsessed with the case in their search for the killer.

Directed by David Fincher, Zodiac finds the esteemed director at the creative height of his illustrious career and ranks amongst his finest works, for the effort he puts into the minutest of details in order to keep the events & setting as authentic as possible to real-life details is worthy of admiration. Equally impressive is James Vanderbilt's script that packs a dialogue-heavy storyline that is narrated in a manner that sustains the interest throughout.

Coming to the technical aspects, production design team puts up era-appropriate set pieces that aptly recreate the necessary 1970s settings. Cinematography encapsulates the story with a dark, tense atmosphere with its muted colour tones & pitch-perfect lighting. Editing paces the picture so neatly that its 157 mins runtime is rarely felt. Visual effects is present in abundance yet hardly noticeable. And both the background score & incorporated songs fit the scenario & situation they are part of.

The film features a strong cast Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo & more, and their work is as impressive as expected. Gyllenhaal leads with a brilliant input as Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist working at San Francisco Chronicle who becomes increasingly obsessed with the case of Zodiac killer. Downey Jr plays crime reporter Paul Avery with an effortless charm, while Mark Ruffalo is assigned the role of Dave Toschi, the lead investigator on the case which he renders with finesse.

The one thing I absolutely love about Zodiac is that it presents its case to the viewers in the exact same way it is revealed to its characters and before they know it, they are busy trying to connect the dots & solve the puzzle like Graysmith. While there is no denying that the film packs a sinister vibe, there is still plenty of morbid humour to be found in it. Also, there is one particular segment that's so nerve-racking & suffocating that not even the best horror films can match its bone-chilling quality.

On an overall scale, Zodiac is an aesthetic amalgamation of quality direction, impeccable screenplay, perfect cinematography, tight editing, captivating performances & fitting score and remains the most mature & accomplished work of Fincher's directorial career to date. Despite being a long dialogue-driven narrative, it is able to immerse the viewers into its world and keeps things riveting throughout its runtime, plus its emphasis on realism & accuracy to real-life events only makes it all the more better.

As informative as any documentary can be on the same subject matter, as entertaining as any blockbuster spectacle can be despite its lack of action, and precisely capturing the era its story unravels in, especially when it comes to all the technology & resources that was available to police back then, Zodiac is a cutting-edge example of its genre that presents Fincher in sublime form and isn't just one of the best all-round films of the year but is also impressive enough to rank amongst the greatest works of 21st century cinema. Thoroughly recommended.

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