Movie Review: ‘Zodiac’

By Nicoletta Sabella
March 22, 2007

Paramount Pictures

“Zodiac” has proven to be one of the best criminal thrillers to be released in a long time, and it’s no surprise since it came from the genius of detail director David Fincher. The man behind such thrillers as “Panic Room” and “Se7en.”

With a new spin on fright, the film focuses on the obsessions of unsolved mysteries rather than on the gruesome realities of bloody crimes.

This suspenseful thriller is based off of the true-life ’70s serial killer that terrorized the San Francisco Bay area residents. He killed his victims randomly either by gun or knife. “I just killed two people,” is what operators heard immediately after he called 911 to report his crime. His claim to fame was the subliminal coded messages he sent to newsrooms and police stations in which his name was revealed. The first one was a plea to put the message on the front page of the newspaper or else more people will die by his hand.

Unlike what most viewers might expect, the movie portrays the criminal spree through the eyes of the journalists and policemen involved instead of through the criminal’s eyes.

And boy was it a ride.

It starts off with Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays Robert Graysmith, the protagonist and slightly awkward cartoonist of the newspaper. He is a young divorcee that finds a distance between himself and his co-workers. When it comes to the new Zodiac front-page criminal investigation, Graysmith finds his niche in cracking the codes and being Paul Avery’s sidekick, who is played by Robert Downey Jr. Avery is the lead crime reporter who is enthralled with the case. This was the newsroom.

Gyllenhaal’s character is put off for the first half of the film, while investigators and journalists take over. A big segment of the film is focused on showing the audience the on-and-off relationship between reporters and the police and how touchy the investigation can get if unwanted information is leaked in an article.

Inspector David Toschi, played by Mark Ruffalo, and his partner Inspector William Armstrong, played by Anthony Edwards, are the two leading policemen in charge of the investigation at San Francisco. Toschi, notorious for needing animal crackers before investigating every crime scene, gets middle-of-the-night calls practically every time the Zodiac strikes again. Toschi and Edwards along with the other investigations throughout the three jurisdictions all through the area believe they have snagged the man in charge of the murders but have no evidence.

And then it stops.

The murders stop and so do the investigations. It becomes a “cold case.” Toschi, Edwards and Avery give up, but Graysmith becomes fixated.

Graysmith’s days and nights are Zodiac. His new wife, Melanie, played by Chloe Sevigny, who was once aware of the importance of the case, now feels put aside in their relationship. She also fears the Zodiac will be after them. A frazzled and restless Gyllenhaal is exposed as his obsessed character in “Donnie Darko” was. The rest of the movie is his journey into getting more details of the investigation. He acts as a reporter, talking to the police and victim’s family members. He is on the verge of giving up until information is uncovered leading him to believe who the Zodiac killer is. He finally writes his book, coincidentally titled “Zodiac.”

For those looking for a jumpy scare flick, this is not the movie to see. Instead, this story is seen as a journey through a book, which is primarily what it is. Its attention to detail with an intricate list of characters is what makes this film perfect for one who likes unraveling deeply-rooted mysteries.

With a tagline of “There’s more than one way to lose your life to a killer,” it’s no surprise that it will make those who are interested totally preoccupied with the unanswered enigma that once consumed many 30 years prior.

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Nicoletta Sabella

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