three hours of my life to "Zodiac." Based on the
unsolved true crime of the notorious serial killer
from Northern California, this motion picture had all
the markings of a real depressing experience. The
subject matter is a downer, but to David Fincher's
attention to detail, "Zodiac" is a fascinating movie
that only seems like a two hour experience.
The film opens on a fine Fourth of July in San
Francisco surburbia a few weeks before Apollo 11
blasted off. When a couple visit lover's lane, they
are shot by a stranger. Two months later in Napa
Valley, a similar murder takes place. Then on October
11, 1969, the killer shoots a cab driver in the city
and mails evidence of his murders to three prominent
San Francisco Newspapers.
While crack reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.)
undertakes the lead investigation, it is cartoonist
Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) who discovers
nuanced clues from the investigations. Graysmith and
Avery eventually share information with Inspectors
Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and Bill Armstrong (Anthony
Edwards). The cooperation between journalism and law
enforcement becomes a tenuous one when communication
channels become derailed by bureaucracy and local
politics. It is only through individual action and
collection management that one is able to discover the
identity of the serial killer.
The opening and closing of "Zodiac" features a
victim of the homicidal celebrity. These cinematic
bookends add an integrity to this motion picture
whose core assertion is about the collateral damage
perpetrated upon crime victims and frustrated
investigators. Without the usual graphic cliches,
Director David Fincher manages to recreate the creepy
San Francisco sub culture with his ominous musical
choices. In particular Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man"
will haunt any "Zodiac" viewers with a conscience.
Whether ?Zodiac" is seen on either the big screen
or on home television, the narrative drive is fueled
by the actors ensemble of Gyllenhaal, Ruffalo, Edwards
and Downey. All four actors drive the narrative and
keeps things moving. The actors create characters
that the audience will develop empathy for. Downey
sinks his teeth into the role of Paul Avery, a
journalist superstar who cracks under the pressure of
paranoia and alcoholism. Gyllenhaal reverts to his
likeable "October Sky" roots and takes command of
the final fifth of the motion picture.
After a long rest from his duties on the television
show "ER," Anthony Edwards retains his old Dr.
Greene bedside manner as Inspector William Armstrong.
Starting off as a crusading cop, Armstrong becomes
burned out by a justice system mired in muck. Mark
Ruffalo is the hot shot Dave Toschi, a man who is
rumored to be the prototype cop for Clint Eastwood's
To director David Fincher's credit, he includes a clip
of the original**Dirty Harry** and his pursuit of the
Scorpio Killer (Andy Robinson). Dirty Harry finally
gets his man during an epic fantasy showdown. The
finale **Zodiac** is not grand, but it does tell an
important story in a realistic way.