Saturday, May 19, 2007


Due to experiencing a bout of LP Leader/Deputy Leadership fatigue that has bordered onto the melancholic I decided to cheer myself up and lift my spirits by going to the cinema. So I saw the film Zodiac which is about a serial killer who was active in northern California during the late 1960s/early 1970s. Cheery indeed.

Actually, it was a very good film that deserves the positive reviews it has received. It's directed by David Fincher and frankly, he is back on form.

Unlike Seven which was high stylised with its blue/silvery hues that gave a dramatic chiaroscuro effect, dankness, drabness and the only time natural light is used at right at the end, Zodiac is grainy and gritty. Fincher is explicit in his attention to detail it has a 1970s feel to it.

A young man and woman are shot while sitting in their car. The man survived. A young couple are having a picnic by a lake when they are attacked by a masked man. The man survived. A cab driver is shot dead in his car.

The San Francisco Chronicle received a letter pertaining to be from the killer written in code calling himself "Zodiac". Some of the cyphers were cracked, others not. Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) a cartoonist and journalist Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jnr) follow the story and become dogged in tracking down this elusive killer. The cop on the case Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) is also determined to find the faceless killer. It is an exercise in obsession and the human cost.

The three work in very different ways but their dedication borders onto obsession especially Robert Graysmith who is utterly sidetracked by the case that his partner eventually leaves him taking their kids. But you get the feeling he doesn't really notice or care.

Avery spirals into alcoholism and drug addiction (not too much of a stretch for Downey Jnr) and leaves journalism while Toschi worked for years on the case. What is also depicted is the blunders made in the investigation, lack of communication and precious behaviour between police departments. Graysmith who was alway fascinated by the cyphers but was in the background at the Chronicle was brought into the forefront of the case by Avery. He took it up as own personal investigation when Avery and Toschi dropped it. Gyllenhaal conveys quite convincingly a man on a quest who lets it take over his life and cuts everyone else out of his life even when killer seemingly invades his life.

What I liked about this film was that it put the spotlight firmly onto these characters and how it impacted on their lives. Thankfully there's none of the usual cod psychobabble about what "makes" a serial killer, instead it revolves around physical evidence though they do originally involve a shrink played by Brian Cox.

Even when the years go by evidence degrades, memories are not as sharp, people move on, and the case goes "cold" but that didn't stop Graysmith who seems stuck in the past. He needs to know who it is, "I need to stand there, look him in the eye and I need to know that it's him". A suspect looms large in the film but it is based on circumstantial evidence.

The film's timeline is from 1969-1991. Graysmith's book "Zodiac" was published around the early 1990s (film is based on it).

The acting is realistic. All the characters are believable and all three main actors are good. The women in their lives are firmly in the background with the exception of Graysmith's partner, Melanie (Chloe Sevigny) and we don't get very rounded characterisations of these women. Gyllenhaal does oddly distracted well (Donnie Darko), Downey Jnr is believable at playing a journalist losing it and Ruffalo as the hardened cop who gives up. There is not the usual standard Hollywood denouement where all loose ends tied up into a nice neat bow. Instead the ending is left open as that corresponds to the real life events.

The film is 2hrs and 30 mins but it was engrossing, well written and accuracy impressive (though I am sure the eagle eyed will have spotted some mistake). The soundtrack is good as well and part of that timeline.

NB: What did have me in mass hysterics was watching a trailer for Die Hard 4.0 where a botox knackered looking Bruce Willis is saving the USA from the Bad Guys. Yippee-ki-yah!

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