FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: “Zodiac” stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler , Spider-Man: Far From Home), Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes (2009)), Mark Ruffalo (Begin Again, The Avengers ), Anthony Edwards (ER [TV series], Top Gun), Brian Cox (Succession [TV series], X2: X-Men United), John Carroll Lynch (The Founder, Fargo ), Dermot Mulroney (My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Family Stone), Elias Koteas (The Thin Red Line, Shooter), Donal Logue (Blade, Just Like Heaven), Chloë Sevigny (Big Love [TV series], Boys Don’t Cry), and John Terry (Lost [TV series], Full Metal Jacket). It is directed by David Fincher (The Social Network, Gone Girl), with the screenplay being written by James Vanderbilt (White House Down, The Amazing Spider-Man).
Based on true events, this film follows three individuals within law enforcement and the newspaper of San Francisco during the Zodiac killings of the 1960s and 1970s.
It’s been a while since I sat down to see a flick that was over two and a half hours long; let alone a drama/thriller. I blame that on the work days that leave me only in the mood for something light and short. With David Fincher’s “Zodiac,” you get none of that, as this fictionalized true story is dark, twisted, and big.
First, let’s talk about this cast. The talent onboard for this one is its own juggernaut. Gyllenhaal, Downey, Ruffalo; three men who have now been cemented in the Marvel zietgeist since filming this picture, firing on all cylinders as they carve out three distinct roles. It couldn’t have been better casting. I loved seeing these guys perform and fill the space of this case. The actors that surrounded them were also choice, with quite a few familiar faces from television series and films I have seen before (Christian from “Lost” is in this one!). Fincher has always had a knack for getting the best out of his talent. Granted, he would ask for over fifty takes per shot, but hey, it gets him results.
Secondly, the setting. San Francisco, from 1968 to 1983. My goodness. A lot of time jumps, but the aesthetic of this flick is what I would deem “chef’s kiss.” I myself am co-writing a feature that takes place in San Francisco during the 70’s, and watching this movie brought great inspiration. The wardrobe, cars, backdrops; it was simple, yet fantastic. We even got some pop culture sprinkled throughout, including a movie premiere of Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry.” There was a lot of work put into the design of this one, which ultimately lent to some beautiful looking shots.
Cinematography, the third, is a no-brainer here: it’s great. A lesser – but more efficient – word to describe it is also serviceable. Fincher lets the actors chew the scenes. Meaning, there aren’t a whole lot of fancy, artistic shots; perhaps a few for transitional purposes, though not many. And you know what, I like it. We breathe in the period piece nature of this feature, with amazing wides and brooding singles. Toss on that iconic Fincher filter (where everything a little more desaturated and blue) and you’ve got yourself a dynamite experience.
When it comes to a David Fincher film, you are at the very least in for a work of art in the technical. This is a big film that works on many levels, but the most crucial to analyze is the story. As I stated before, we jump around… a lot. It’s almost three hours for a reason, and that reason is the fact that this case (based on a book by the real guy Jake Gyllenhaal portrays in the film) is ongoing. The Zodiac killer, in real life, was never caught, with only bits of new information coming to life over the course of a few decades. James Vanderbilt does a good job weaving us through this narrative, though by its nature of jumping around there are gaps that have to be filled in my mind. Our set of characters go through a lot, and with scenes that transition us years into the future, the development with them can get hazy. Especially as we approach the third act. Of course, this whole movie is about the Zodiac case, and this is more so a retelling of the actual proceedings that took place, but I kind of wished that we got to see some of the connecting parts for our characters. It’s not a big ordeal, mind you, it’s just something that came to mind.
Ultimately, “Zodiac” is a fantastically made feature with top-tier talent, brilliant direction, and a setting that I ate up. The case itself is quite fascinating and seeing our characters go down this rabbit hole proved for thrilling entertainment. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and believe it fits in with some of Fincher’s best. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. FINAL SCORE: 92%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: