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You go figure the serial killer

Zodiac: an often overlooked masterpiece that deserves more love


Zodiac (15)
Running time 2hr 37min
Rating: *****

In late 1960s/early 1970s, a San Francisco cartoonist becomes an amateur detective obsessed with tracking down the Zodiac Killer, an unknown identity, who terrorises Northern California. David Fincher’s 2007 Zodiac gives you enough pointers to solve this gem of a thriller yourself, says film reviewer CAMERON BLACKSHAW

DAVID Fincher’s smart and stylish mystery thriller is one of the talented director’s most underrated films and an overlooked gem when it comes to the best films of the 2000s. Telling the story of three men’s investigations into discovering the identity of the infamous Zodiac serial killer who terrorised the San Francisco Bay area during the late 60s and early 70s, this cerebral thriller will have you conducting your own investigation that will keep you guessing until the very end.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Robert Graysmith, a clean-cut and inquisitive political cartoonist working at the San Francisco Chronicle, who becomes interested in the Zodiac case once the killer begins to write morbid letters containing cyphers to the paper. Along with his sarcastic and alcoholic reporter colleague Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr), Graysmith’s interest morphs into obsession, an obsession that comes to consume all facets of his life. Mark Ruffalo also stars as Inspector Dave Toschi, the chief police investigator on the Zodiac case who often butts heads with Graysmith and Avery while conducting his own
exhaustive investigation into the elusive killer.

All three actors put in great performances that are supported by some notable talent as well. The film unravels in a methodical fashion, intercutting the scenes of the murders with the ongoing efforts of Graysmith, Avery and Toschi, as the months and years roll on and the crimes remain unsolved. The film’s feeling of historical authenticity is quite remarkable. From all the props, sets and beautiful establishing shots of Frisco, Fincher manages to truly immerse you in the look and feel of such a specific time and place.

One of Zodiac’s most impressive aspects is its handling of tone. The film knows when to be serious, it knows when to be funny and it also knows when it needs to be terrifyingly chilling. Examples such as a highway kidnapping scene and basement scene are some of the most disturbing in recent mainstream thrillers.

It’s also paced incredibly well. Fincher handles the two-and-a-half-hour runtime with ease. Taking a leaf out of Scorsese’s book, the film is filled with short, necessary scenes with nothing wasted. Some may see it as a slow burner, but if you give your whole attention to Zodiac, it’ll grip and not let go.

A great cinematic exploration of obsession through the unique nuances of three men, Zodiac is an often overlooked masterpiece that deserves much more love. Its puzzles may warrant a fair amount of concentration, but it certainly pays off with its delightfully frustrating conclusion.

The film does suggest who the identity of the Zodiac really is, but it provides you with enough information to come to your own conclusions. If you love this, be sure to check out Bong Joon-Ho’s Memories of Murder. A Korean police procedural whose
real-life basis draws many similarities to the Zodiac case, these two films would be perfect for a murderous double bill.
Available to view on Amazon Prime Video.

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