This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Dylan’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Zodiac, David Fincher’s film about the impact the Zodiac serial killer’s case had on the three primary characters is developed with much skill and poise. It is not the typical serial killer thriller that many viewers may expect. Instead, the movie begins with a couple of bone chilling and brutal recreations of murders carried out by the mysterious zodiac killer. The early scenes are shocking and scary, because these are the only scenes that allow us to see the events from the killer’s perspective. As the film goes on, the story is not as much focused on the zodiac killer’s killings, but more so focused on the investigation of the zodiac killer. Fincher executes this film masterfully, and he does a brilliant job showing how the serial killer’s case impacts each of the characters. Jake Gyllenhaal, the cartoonist, becomes obsessed with the case and ends up losing his job as well as his wife. Mark Ruffalo, the detective, is unable to sit through a movie loosely based on the killer and ends up getting transferred due to false rumors. Robert Downey Jr., the reporter, ends up a drunken alcoholic who became paranoid due to threats from the killer.
All of the acting in this movie is good across the board. Jake Gyllenhaal is the clear standout in the movie though. His character starts off as a simple cartoonist, who is obviously smart but not taken seriously. He becomes fascinated with the zodiac case, and sort of turns it into a morbid hobby. Gyllenhaal portrays his character fantastically, as you honestly watch him fall into obsession with the case. Robert Downey Jr. is equally good in his role. He is able to hold his own as well as offer a bit of comedic relief in a not so comedic movie. I particularly enjoyed the scene where he yelled at Jack Gyllenhaal’s character when he came over to his boat house. Although my least favorite of the three, Mark Ruffalo is still notable. He does a solid job portraying the fierce detective, who is unable to crack the case. Chloe Sevigny is not super developed in the movie, but she is still very good as the wife who loses her husband to obsession. John Carroll Lynch is another good supporting performance, as the suspected serial killer. He is truly horrifying in his interview with the detectives. Something about the vibe he gives off is hair-raising.
Moving past acting, there is no way I can review this movie without talking about some of the scenes. First off, I thought the opening to this movie was brilliant. You are given a brutal murder that makes you interested but terrified for the rest of the movie. Another particular scene I enjoyed was the phone conversation scene with the supposed zodiac killer. I literally got chill bumps as I listened to the conversation. I mean when the zodiac killer started describing his headaches and how sick he was, I lost it. I equally loved the basement scene of the movie, when Bob Vaugh said, “Mr. Graysmith, I do the posters myself.” What follows this is a very creepy sequence where Bob and Robert go into the basement (which, as Graysmith mentioned earlier in the movie, is unusual for California). The whole scene was honestly creepy, and I was so ready for it to end due to how scared I was. Lastly, I loved the ending to this movie. It was so frightening to watch Mike, a previous survivor of Zodiac, pick out the zodiac killer in a yearbook. Then the whole title card that followed closed the film off so nicely that I was left with chill bumps.
Fincher is effectively able to combine all parts of the movie and make them mesh so well together. He utilized the atmosphere of rainy San Francisco to its maximum potential, which helps adds to the chilling effect of the movie. Long scenes in this movie are given to analyze handwriting samples, recreating scenes of the murders, and digging into past evidence to try and find new evidence. It takes time to develop all of this, so the time length makes sense. This movie could not work with a 90 minute or even 120 minute runtime. David Fincher does his best to bring everything to a conclusive end, but the real life story sadly makes a complete conclusion impossible to reach. Overall, this film truly is powerful and genius in all parts. If you have the time, I 100% recommend watching this.