Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cryptic Killer

Director: David Fincher
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chloe Sevigny, Anthony Edwards
Released: March 2, 2007

When most people think of the films of David Fincher, the ones that probably first cross their minds are Fight Club or The Social Network. However, I listen to quite a few movie podcasts and whether the hosts are Fincher fans or not, they all seem to agree that Zodiac is his best movie. It's certainly not a bad movie - far from it, but I think my expectations were so high from hearing all these movie nerds rave about it, that they didn't have anywhere else to go but down. (Personally my favorite Fincher movie remains Panic Room, Kristin Stewart be damned!)

The film is about the Zodiac killer, a serial killer who taunted the police and newspapers in San Francisco with his cryptic messages. To tell you the truth, I was not very familiar with the Zodiac killer who committed his murders in the late '60s and early '70s. The film spans from '69-'79 with a quick time jump to '84, then another one to '91. (And amazingly Gyllenhaal does not age at all from '69 - '84!) After the Zodiac killed his victim or victims, he would send a letter written in a code for the police to decipher.

Gyllenhaal plays Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle who becomes obsessed with finding who the Zodiac really is. Downey Jr. plays a reporter who loses interest in the case after alcohol starts consuming his life, so Robert tries to get all his information and help from Ruffalo's police officer who's also on the case with his partner, played by Edwards, who I did not recognize at all because he has a full head of hair. I must have missed his name in the credits, because I would have recognized it. Whenever he would appear in a scene, I kept thinking how familiar he looked and sounded and I knew I had seen somewhere on TV, but I couldn't place it, so I had to pause the DVD to find out who it was. Once I realized it was Dr. Mark Green, it seemed pretty obvious that I should have placed him a lot sooner. However, I did recognize Minkus from Boys Meets the World the second he appeared on my screen.

Robert becomes so obsessed that his girlfriend (maybe wife by this time) takes their children to her parents' house because since Robert has made it public knowledge that he's trying to catch and identify the Zodiac killer, so she fears for her and the kids' lives and basically tells him that he has to choose between them or his obsession.

They show a few of the Zodiac's killings and because we never learn his true identity until the end of the film (and even then it's iffy), we never fully see him. While not overly graphic, the murders are pretty chilling. One of the worse ones was a woman who thankfully managed to get away. I could not believe how stupid she was - she AND HER BABY were really lucky to make it out alive. (Yes, she had a baby with her!) She was driving at night down a nearly deserted road (tell me if this doesn't already sound like a really bad horror movie) and a car starts honking at her, so like a dolt, she pulls over and the guy tells her that her back tire is loose and he can screw it back in for her, so she agrees and he tinkers with the car, then when she starts driving again, her tire falls off. Imagine that! So the guy comes back and offers to drive her to a service station and she begins to get nervous when they pass one. WHAT A MORON! Who lets some strange, creepy guy work on their car, much less drive them somewhere? Now I know this was before the time of cell phones, but the woman should have ignored his honking or just sped past him when he stopped car and walked towards her car.

If I didn't know David Fincher had directed this movie, I probably wouldn't have guessed because compared to his other movies, this one is more subdued. It definitely takes you back to the '70s with that gritty feel of that decade.

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