Zodiac ★★★★

David Fincher really called in every favor here. Possibly the ensembliest cast assembled in the pre-MCU era, which manages to give significant screen time to Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo, but also makes time for some cherished workhorses like Brian Cox, Elias Koteas and Donal Logue. And Chloë Sevigny is always a welcome sight. 

I avoided watching this film for years because it was impossible to imagine it standing in the same company as the leading lights of the serial killer genre with that certified fuckton of prestige acting talent orbiting the premise. Thankfully, it’s not a serial killer picture. Fincher, you sly bastard, I saw you name check Armistead Maupin. Tales of the City, restructured around the black hole that is the still-unsolved Zodiac case. 

It’s the narrative structure that really makes the film memorable. Rather than a straight mystery, it’s a meditation on the pull that an absence has on a series of lives swirling around it. The negative space at the film’s heart is framed expertly by the three main characters, all shaped and changed by their obsession and the lack of answers at its core. Unfortunately, the flaw comes with the film’s choice to adopt Robert Graysmith’s answers as definitive in the last thirty minutes, which pulls the punch. The three men at the eye of the storm have had to reckon with the prospect of resolution never coming for almost a decade. That specter haunting the remainder of a person’s life reverberates and really could have helped a very good film achieve lasting greatness. 

Nonetheless, a cleverly structured story in which the fear of an untraceable killer takes a back seat to the existential dread of defining one’s life with the ghost of something that once had meaning but fades into obscurity with each passing day.

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