‘Zodiac’ (2007) 500 Word DVD Review

June 20, 2009 § Leave a comment

Score: 4 out of 5

David Fincher is one of those directors burdened with success. It has been eight years since Fight Club captured the 21st century anti-consumerist zeitgeist, and twelve years since Se7en shocked audiences with its unconventional twist ending. Coming from a background in directing music videos for some of the biggest stars in the music business, David Fincher is not exactly what you might expect; he’s calculated, cunning, stylish, brilliant, but there is one thing he isn’t: obvious.

That’s why watching Zodiac is an oddly confusing an experience. It’s not so much a thriller about the serial killer – well, it is, but it’s not. It’s film about obsession and infatuation. It’s about the need to know – to know that you’re right, to know the truth, to solve the puzzle, to understand, to comprehend. The whole film can be summed up in one scene, in which one of the main characters, Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), is asked by his wife why he is compelled to solve the Zodiac case, and he just can’t explain it. He doesn’t understand it anymore than we do; all he knows is that, somehow, he must get it all to make sense.

But Robert is not alone in his compulsion. The Zodiac himself, the man, is insignificant, but the myth and the mystery draw others to him, like wasps to a flame. It’s not just the men and women he kills who are his victims; it’s those who follow his every move, who tear their lives apart trying to uncover his identity.

Apart from the initial murders, we see very little of the Zodiac killer. Just as quickly as he arrived, he disappears, leaving a profound sense of confusion among those left captured within his wake. Fincher engrosses us in the lives of Graysmith, Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.), each of them having their lives forever affected by the actions of the Zodiac – some of which destroy themselves in the process of hunting the enigmatic killer.

As the characters become more and more perplexed, so do we. For two hours and forty minutes we follow their every lead, each and every dead-end. Potential suspects turn up, leave, and then reappear. At one point it’s about the handwriting, the next it’s about fingerprints and then there’s a witness, and it all goes round and round and round; it never stops. We are caught in a whirlwind of facts, recordings, eyewitness testimony, transcripts and reports. It truly is an utterly disorienting, draining, daunting experience. Fincher wants us to experience information overload; he wants us to feel the pressure, like Graysmith and Toschi do, as things move back and forth, between sense and senselessness.

It all amounts to a type of film that is very long and tiring, and which requires a certain amount of endurance and curiosity to appreciate it. Everything in and about Zodiac contributes to a purpose: to baffle us into a hopeless and perplexed stupor.

I do duly confess that he’s succeeded.

(505 words.)

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