This 2007 David Fincher film is based on Robert Graysmith’s book which was adapted for screen by James Vanderbilt. Graysmith was a cartoonist working for the San Francisco Chronicle Newspaper at the time of the Zodiac murders in the late 1960’s, early 1970’s. Officially the Zodiac killer was never identified and caught by Police and to this day remains a mystery. While working at the Chronicle, Graysmith became fascinated with the case, and even after the Police gave up trying to find out who the serial killer was, he was hooked in the hunt. Graysmith eventually went on to write a book about the subject, detailing his experience and the evidence he found. The book is the subject for this film.
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Robert Graysmith. There are quite a few other big names in the film; Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards play two of the main police inspectors, Robert Downey Jr. and Brian Cox work at the newspaper, with Downey Jr. playing Paul Avery who took the lead on writing about Zodiac. Also, in the cast are actors like John Terry, Chloe Sevigny, Donal Logue, and John Carroll Lynch – all of whom give great turns in their roles.
This is not your average Hollywood serial killer/ cop film. With it being based on fact Fincher tries to concentrate on what is known rather than what makes an exciting scene for the audience. So, you will not find typical high intensity action; no car chases scenes using typical San Francisco roads, no shoot outs between good guy and bad guy. There are only really two, maybe three scenes in the movie which show events from the killer’s point of view. Usually this is a standard trope of such films so the audience can create a connection to the characters, even if it to recognise that the audience are watching the ‘bad guy’. This film does not do that, when the killer is present you do not see their face. The closest you get it when potential suspects are shown later in the film. The film is more a character driven film, showing how people who were involved (particularly Downey Jr, – the reporter, Gyllenhaal – a cartoonist/ obsessive, and Ruffalo – the lead investigator) in the story handle it. The events and investigation wore some people down, some turned to drink and drugs, some people became highly motivated, some frustrated – everyone who was touched by the happenings surrounding Zodiac were affected in some way or another, even none central players who just happened to be living in the city lived a life of fear for a period of time, which came across in the film. For this reason, the movie tag line gets it spot on, suggesting “There’s more than one way to lose your life to a killer.”
With a runtime of 157 minutes this is a very long film. Bearing in mind that its a character driven and development film there are times where those 157 minutes seem to be dragging on a bit with lots of dialogue. This could perhaps have been cut down a little, but from what I have read, Fincher already cut parts out and was not happy about doing that. This was rated 15 on it is UK release, but short of a small bit of bloodshed and death, its mainly the suggestion of violence that serves to give it that rating. The acting is superb, and with great cinematography and a gritty score this is a good film. Do not expect a happy ending because of course this is a film based on fact, and the killer was never identified. What you can expect is a very long but well-polished, tense, and thrilling character driven film which remains engaging enough to entertain and covers some of the key facts unearthed throughout the investigation.