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The Best of 2007: 'Zodiac'



Because this film was released in March, David Fincher's latest work became yet another example of the Academy only paying attention to films coming out late in the year. It is a great shame too because Zodiac might be one of the best written mystery films to come out in a very long time. Five years have come and gone since David Fincher of Se7en and Fight Club fame has completed a film. Coming out of the Hitchcock inspired Panic Room, Fincher considered and declined many projects; many that became very successful films in fact including Catch Me If You Can, Batman Begins, and Spider-Man. It becomes very obvious that Fincher was waiting for a very mature project to get his hands on and that is exactly what Fincher has proven within this film's craftsmanship.

Based on the book and real life accounts as told by Robert Graysmith, the film Zodiac pieces together in a very cohesive and understandable manner all the leads and loose ends of the infamous Zodiac case of the late 60's and how it continued into the 70's. Interestingly enough, the Zodiac murders are infamous for the rather odd way the killer made himself known: through cryptograms and leaving some witnesses alive to give inconsistent testimonies of their assailant's description. What most critics I believe fail to realize is that this film was not intentionally designed to be a high-octane, psychological thriller but more of a study and profiling of all the figures involved in the case including the possible Zodiac himself. Due to the fact that this film is based on actual events, it would have been a greater crime to reduce all the facts and circumstances of the incidents into a two hour "who done it" romp like the great fiction of Se7en. Instead, Fincher casts actors of the indie world to flesh out the real people surrounding these events. Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr, Brian Cox, Chloe Sevigny, and John Terry all do remarkable jobs giving life to these people of 30, 40 years ago running around looking for answers by thankfully giving them multiple dimensions which could have easily been lost in any historical drama stuck on the gory details.

The most interesting thing in this event to me is that absolute disorganization and utter unwillingness for many of the police precincts to able to get together to corroborate evidence. This was one of the many things that the Zodiac was able to get away with because of the jurisdictional nonsense involved. This reminded this author fondly of a fairly obscure 1992 Bradford May directed film starring Christopher Reeve called Mortal Sins where a priest attempts to solve a murder but the real conflict is not the villain's attempts to get away. It all lies in the bureaucratic barriers stifling the accessibility to evidence. The Zodiac incidents became so synonymous with 1970's injustice that it eventually inspired the classic 1971 crime drama, Dirty Harry, which the people in this film having still not solved the case, watch with empathy. And that is how this film should be seen: not for just entertainment value, but for its genuine empathy.