Zodiac ★★★★½

Not many people have basements in California.

If you're around me long enough, you'll find out two things about me. First, I love Jake Gyllenhaal more than the air I breathe. Second, I am deeply fascinated with crime stories, and even more so, serial killers. Therefore, I really have no reason as to why I haven't watched Zodiac sooner. As a surprise to no one whatsoever, I thought it was fantastic. It left me with a similar feeling this year's Dragged Across Concrete did: I want to see more two and a half hour crime thrillers. The mystery is engaging, the characters are three-dimensional, and the tension is palpable. If I could use one word to describe Zodiac to someone, it would be "enthralling." You've got yourself a good ass movie to warrant that kind of description.

First things first, yes, I thought my boy Jake Gyllenhaal was great here as Robert Graysmith. Jake has this unique appeal to him where he can exude a kind of passion and determination that's an equal mix of sympathetic and unnerving. This is something that seems to carry throughout Zodiac, which I would describe as the story of "ordinary people under extraordinary pressure", to lift a quote from Michael Mann's The Insider. There's a raving killer loose in California. He's out for blood from anyone and everyone. Couples, cab drivers, children, no one feels safe. Police and journalists scramble to protect the innocent and protect themselves. This lunatic is smart, calculating, and a legitimate challenge playing a game with humanity itself. Even decades later, the Zodiac Killer is the subject of discussion, analysis, memes, and in some way or another, a staple of modern American history. Man is the most dangerous animal of all.

To me a good mystery doesn't have to have a truly conclusive ending. Some of the most renowned murder cases in history are still left unsolved. At least in the realm of telling a good story, the journey to the end is what matters. Zodiac offers an incredible journey. The murders portrayed in the film are in the first half, and they're all bone-chillingly disturbing, but the heart of the film is on the investigation. It is not with the killer, but the men who made it their calling to take him down. Whether or not you believe Arthur Leigh Allen (played in a small but phenomenal performance by John Carroll Lynch) or Rick Marshall or Ted Cruz or anyone else suspected of the murders to be the killer, the mystery is the game, the mystery is the story, and in a twisted way, it'll be a bittersweet day when or if the mystery has to come to a close. More dialogue-driven crime epics by competent writers and directors, Hollywood. Please, and thank you.


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