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  Publicity Stills of "Zodiac"
(Courtesy from Warner Bros)

Genre: Crime/Thriller/Drama
Director: David Fincher
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox
RunTime: 2 hrs 38 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Rating: NC-16
Official Website: www.zodiacmovie.co.uk

Opening Day: 31 May 2007

Synopsis :

Based on the true story of one of the most intriguing unsolved crimes in history, Zodiac tells the story of a serial killer who terrifies the San Fransisco Bay Area and taunts police with his ciphers and letters as investigators in four jurisdictions search for the murderer. The case will become an obsession for four men as their lives and careers are built and destroyed by the endless trail of clues.

Movie Review:

The serial killer film has become such an exploited cliché that one approaches such things with caution. However, Zodiac director David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club) has not only brought a fresh look to the genre, he’s reinvented himself in the process, demanding a thinking audience.

Zodiac chronicles one of the most imfamous serial killers and unsolved cases of the late 60's and early 70's. It wasn't all peace and love in San Fransico. In 1969 the San Fransico Chronicle gets the first of many letters from someone claiming that he's murdered two kids on lovers lane and that he did the same thing about 6 months before. He continually taunts the paper and the police in a series of letters and cyphers that he sends out. A young politcal cartoonist takes an interest in the case, but the interest eventually leads him to an obession over it. And tracking an elusive serial killer turns into a risky game. Being incredibly absorbing procedural, a chronicle of an investigation that took three steps backward for every one step forward. With the apt tagline of "There's more than one way to lose your life to a killer," this film isn't so much about the Zodiac himself as it is about how the men tasked with hunting him down became lost in a sea of obsession in the process.

The film follows three men in their pursuit of leads and clues that don’t add up; as each of them gets more intense, or more resigned to their failures, their professional and personal lives begin to unravel. Zodiac is about the process of pursuit, not the soap opera lives of its protagonists, or even the criminals they pursue. And in keeping with the spirit of a film, Fincher has chucked every stylistic twitch or cinematic habit he’s ever shown to date and with a remarkably specific look and feel to make not a film set in the 1970s but a film wholly of the 1970s. Based on Robert Graysmith’s book, the film features Jake Gyllenhaal as the author, who was a cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle during the time of the Zodiac. Graysmith plays a secondary role through most of the movie, which focuses on the detectives investigating the case and the newspaper’s role in making it a media spectacle.

Director David Fincher captures the feeling of a city on the edge, held virtually hostage by a single lunatic who claims murders he may not have committed, sends cryptic puzzles, and succeeds in messing with the minds of those trying to find him. Fincher's style is simple, but it contains a number of memorable shots (especially a fantastic shot of a fog-covered Golden Gate Bridge and the bird's-eye view cab tracking shot) and, most crucially, maintains an aura of suspense and dread, chillingly turning ordinary streets and sunny parks into the Zodiac's homicidal playgrounds. From its lack of deep focus lensing and elaborate tracking shots to the subtle shifts of wardrobe and makeup to the very geography of San Francisco, Fincher achieves a miracle in not calling one iota of attention to his accomplishment. What he wants to do instead is bring viewers along with the characters as they butt heads and hit brick walls of progress; as Robert Graysmith descends even deeper into his obsessions (losing his job and his family in the process), we become even more attached to his goal - not to see the Zodiac brought to justice but to look him in the eye, knowing who he was, and letting the Zodiac know that he knows.

James Vanderbilt's script follows a similar approach; the story itself seems uneventful, but the mounting number of obstacles that pop up during the hunt for the Zodiac build up more than enough tension to enrapture the viewer. With the lack of technological advancement back we fully take granted of today, we feel the frustration and difuculty of organizing a police case back then. Rarely before has a film that seems to have little actually happening come across as so thrilling and engaging, as the viewer's emotional investment in the characters and their situation is well rewarded with a number of scenes that will put you on the edge of your seat through the most subtle of ways.

Zodiac's atmosphere is heightened by the terrific ensemble cast. Gyllenhaal gives a convincing performance as Graysmith, a slightly nerdy puzzlehound who, in the film's final act, finds himself as the only one dedicated enough to really sink into weeding out the Zodiac's identity. Ruffalo also delivers possibly his finest performance yet as the determined Toschi, feeling his pain when he comes so close to landing some evidence on his Zodiac suspects, only to have some force sweep it all under the rug.

A number of other familiar faces pop up in brief but memorable roles, including Brian Cox, as a lawyer whose aid is seeked by the Zodiac, and Charles Fleischer, whose relatively brief apperance as a suspect is the most chilling in the entire film. And of course Robert Downey Jr. who does a fine work as the Chronicle's boozing star reporter. Even though the script doesn't allow his side story to become as fleshed-out a part of the madness running rampant, it grants other characters to shine through making the power of the ensemble evenly weighed.

2002’s Panic Room and Zodiac is the absolute opposite of that exercise in stylistic tension - this time around, substance trumps style and the hounds just outside the door are our own trepidations, our fears of the unknown that lurks in a dark heart.

Movie Rating:

(A riveting and fascinatingly-detailed true-crime epic.)

Review by Lokman BS



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