There's more than one way to lose your life to a killer.
Movie Title: Zodiac
My Take: Neutral
Watch For: Cryptic dialogue about Japanese food.
The Zodiac Killer terrorized northern California for nearly ten month's in the late nineteen-sixties and continues to terrorize victims in various forms of media including books, television, and movies. What, you might ask, is the draw of these killings? Is it that there was no motive? That the killer was obsessed with playing games with the police? Or was it that the killer was never actually caught and convicted? David Fincher's new movie Zodiac incorporates all of these factors into the same film and I have to tell you they are all equally intriguing.
The movie spans a good deal of time from the first killings in the sixties to the early eighties. We follow the trials and tribulations of the police departments involved in the investigation and their difficulty in collaboration (after all, this is pre-wireless time we are talking about here). Constantly befuddled by the killer and his strange silent streak in the mid-seventies most of the officers leave the trail to investigate other cases. It isn't until a cartoonist from the Zodiac's favorite newspaper: The Chronicle (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) starts his own investigation that the case regains life.
This movie is a strange mishmash. On the one hand it seems to want to focus on the Zodiac and his motives, mannerisms, etc. But on the other it tries to focus on Gyllenhaal and his obsession with solving the case. You would think that in the course of 2 hours and 40 minutes one of these things might be accomplished, but alas, you would be sadly mistaken. By the end we are left scratching our heads for a variety of reasons. If the intent of the film is to confuse the viewers as much as the police of northern California it succeeded admirably. This film has so many plot holes and loose ends I don't know where to start, so I won't.
Despite these problems, the film has a few bright spots. Gyllenhaal does well as the film's semi-protagonist (although he never seems to age) and Robert Downey Jr. turns in another great performance as the strung-out eccentric, although no one will give him an award for playing himself. Finally, the film is a painstaking look at police work and all of its red tape. We see mounds and mounds of circumstantial evidence that will never stand-up in court even though everyone and their mother knows who did it. We see police power struggles, problems with experts, and the difficulty in making sense of crimes that simply don't, all thrown together and set at a slow boil. In the end though, the pot only fizzles, and we are left wanting more.
If you really want to test your patience I recommend seeing it in the theater but if you can stave off your thirst for Gyllenhaal (and I know it's hard) just wait for the video