Zodiac (2007)

zodiac poster 2007 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Does a good job making an unsolved crime interesting, good visuals

Very long

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Zodiac

Studio:  Phoenix Picture

Genre(s):  Drama/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  March 2, 2007

MPAA Rating:  R

zodiac lake berryessa murder scene

Next time, I pick the picnic location

A series of murders are rocking San Francisco and the surrounding area in 1968.  The murders appear to be unrelated, but the murderer seems to enjoy taunting the police and press.  Naming himself Zodiac, the killer has avoided the detection of police at every step.  Writer Paul Avery (Robert Downey, Jr.) finds himself pulled into the madness and is followed by the curious San Francisco Chronicle editorial cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) as San Francisco Police Department Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and Inspector William Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) try to use forensics and handwriting samples to find a suspect.  As the crimes progress, the fear grows, and Zodiac might escape punishment.

zodiac paul avery robert graysmith robert downey jr jake gyllenhaal

We all go a little mad sometimes

Directed by David Fincher, Zodiac is a true-crime drama based on the Zodiac murders which occurred in the late 1960s to the early 1970s in and around San Francisco.  The film adapts Robert Graysmith’s 1986 book on the killings.  The movie was met with mostly positive reviews but so-so box office returns.  Since its release, Zodiac has gained a rather strong following.

The Zodiac killer was a sensation and a very “influential” serial killer.  The randomness of killings in the late ’60s had everyone talking and made Zodiac a notorious serial killer.  The killer helped inspire Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry (Scorpio was a Zodiac clone).  The big problem with Zodiac and the challenge of the film is that there is no answer to the crime.

zodiac detective dave toschi mark ruffalo philip baker hall

I can confirm it is handwriting…wait, you wanted me to compare the writing? My bad…

Zodiac is an adaptation of the book written by Jake Gyllenhaal’s character which comes to the conclusion that Arthur Leigh Allen (John Carroll Lynch) is the killer, but the facts as pointed out by the movie don’t really match up with this.  DNA eliminates Allen, but circumstantial evidence is strong.  There are a number of other legitimate suspects that this film dips into, but has Allen is represented as the prime suspect.

Fincher has to get around the “no answer” and does it by having strong acting and a nice looking film. Zodiac looks great and has a lot of great shots (something typical of Fincher).  Unlike many of Fincher’s other films, Zodiac really isn’t about flash but creating an environment.  The late ’60s San Francisco setting is rich for shooting and had to be recreated at many points.  The film comes off as almost an old style documentary at some points which is fun.

zodiac suspect arthur leigh allen john carroll lynch

I had nothing to do with stabbing those kids with the knives in my car…

As mentioned, the acting is also top notch in the movie.  Gyllenhaal plays the rather odd Graysmith (I kind of wonder how Graysmith agreed with his portrayal), and Robert Downey, Jr. plays the veteran writer growing more and more paranoid.  Both characters allow the Zodiac to get the best of them and both have different reactions to that problem.  Ruffalo plays the frustrated Toschi (the real life influence for McQueen’s Bullitt), and I particularly like when he works with Graysmith near the end of the film.  The movie has a lot of fun minor roles also with Philip Baker Hall as Sherwood Morrill the handwriting expert, Brian Cox as famed attorney Melvin Belli, Anthony Edwards as Toschi’s partner Armstrong, Chloë Sevigny as Graysmith’s understanding (to a limit) wife, and Clea DuVall as prisoner Linda del Buono.  John Carol Lynch does a nice job as the creepy potential killer Arthur Leigh Allen.

I saw Zodiac not long after it came out and was a bit numb to it.  I liked it, but I was not wowed by it.  After a couple of rewatches, it is a better movie (despite its length).  The film is stylish and slick looking, but does have the basic problem of telling the story of a series of unsolved murders.  Fincher does a good job making that story compelling, but it could leave some viewers who want more resolution and justice for the victims whose murders remain unsolved.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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