Zodiac ★★★★★

You can't think of this case in normal police terms.

Zodiac alternates between meticulous procedural and harrowing displays of violence, and that structure perfectly encapsulates the nature of this story. Journalists, detectives, guys who like puzzles. Each one is using their tools to contend with and to rise and meet nebulous and evolving evil. It's about the development of forensic science and criminology, while being deeply rooted in the minds of fastidious professionals exhausting their techniques in a futile effort. Exhaustion is really the operative word; it is both the emotional end point of its characters' interlinked arcs and the sensation it leaves in the viewer. One incisive bit that sticks out to me is how the film demonstrates a lack of cooperation led to the failure to solve the case. Police departments in different cities don't share evidence; journalists and cops are at each other's throats. The massive disorganization is completely at odds with the scrupulous nature of the filmmaking and the characters' considerable sleuthing skills. Everyone finds themselves overwhelmed by the problems they can't solve and the rampant anxiety that pervades their community. The three lead performances, each of which is seemingly directed within an inch of the actors' lives, somewhat literally, show off that aforementioned exhaustion in their faces, line readings and body language. In their eyes, you can see the overbearing toll of their total investment in the case. The humanity amid this formalist brilliance is really the spark that lights my fire for this material, and I speculate Fincher feels a similar fire. Technical bravura is a unifying feature amoung his oeuvre, but it's perfectly in sync with the material and the professionals who inhabit it, record it and endlessly try to solve its multitude of mysteries.

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