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Genre Mystery
Year: 2007

Ciphered codes in ancient symbols, psychotic letters and a string of unsolved murders usually add up to a fantastic serial killer movie. The same can be said for Zodiac with one difference, it all actually happened. It's a film based on Robert Graysmith’s books about the real-life Zodiac killer. David Fincher is the director responsible for such classic films as Fight Club, Se7en and The Game. After a five year film hiatus he returns with Zodiac, a name that seems to consume all that try to decipher it. Most serial killer movies focus on the murders, the killer and their downfall. However, Zodiac is more concerned with the people surrounding the case. The film is based on Robert Graysmith’s book and represents a perspective on the Zodiac killer case. Graysmith was a cartoonist for a local newspaper and became heavily involved when the case seemed to have reached a dead-end.

Zodiac captures the peripheral stories of three men, namely: Inspector David Toschi (Ruffalo), Paul Avery (Downey Jr.) and Robert Graysmith (Gyllenhaal). Each of these characters became somewhat obsessed with the facts and symbols, and the Zodiac killer formed and broke them indirectly. The film is meticulously filmed by Fincher, who incorporates the real locations with access to the files and the book by Graysmith. He strikes a fine balance between entertainment and infotainment as the facts are laid out through vivid re-enactments and terrific performances. The Zodiac killer’s fascination with popular media makes this story even more suitable for an adaptation as the newspapers, television and Zodiac cinema fixation play a crucial part.

Fincher’s directorial genius is witnessed in the way he makes old news feel like fresh meat. The characters wade through the evidence and formulate new suspects and connections. These new perspectives fuel factual information, which is translated into documentation and dialogue. The film has a newspaper room feel and gets to grips with real detective work. Just because something is almost undeniably true, it doesn’t mean you can prove it. Fincher manages to keep Zodiac visually appealing, entertaining and captivating over more than two hours. The era doesn’t feel constructed and the characters are quirky and real enough to keep one fixated. While the spate of murders dominate the first third of Zodiac, the relentless hunt for the killer and obsessive quest for justice set a good pace for the last two thirds.

Gyllenhaal and Ruffalo had a chance to meet their real-life counterparts and relay fine performances. While Downey Jr.’s creative license allows for a refreshing representation of an overworked journalist. Zodiac isn’t for everyone and blends the best of documentary with the best of drama. Zodiac will renew interest in the Zodiac case, inform the uninformed and create the new standard for unsolved mysteries. If you want a concise documentary, watch the History Channel’s The Zodiac Killer (2004). If you’d prefer to watch a dramatic interpretation with meticulous direction, solid performances and accurate information then Zodiac is your movie.

The bottom line: Engrossing.

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