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“Zodiac” (2007) Review

Zodiac cover

Films based on real crime cases, in particular serial killers, are always tough to make work. This especially holds true when the investigations and murders span longer periods of time. With “Zodiac”, David Fincher tries to capture the events that transpired during the Zodiac murders and one of the most believed theories on the identity of the Zodiac himself. While the case itself is quite interesting, the film struggles in some keys areas that bring down the overall experience.

The main issue with “Zodiac” is the way it is put together. The film is already considered long at a runtime over 2.5 hours, yet it’s not the true runtime that is the issue – the movie just feels drawn out. This is mainly due to the plot being fairly disjointed and an abundance of unnecessary and meaningless scenes. At some point, you are left hoping the conclusion is right around the corner…

This disjointed plot pattern pulls down not the pacing, but the overall story as well. The true story, serial killer thriller genre is something that is hard to really do right, as most of these big cases span many years, with many details in the files. That being said, for how long “Zodiac” feels, I never really felt like I had all the necessary information. Names, locations, and years are all tossed about without a feel for the passage of time (outside of some minor dates flashed on-screen to signal time lapses) which results in the viewer becoming somewhat disoriented. If the unnecessary scenes were removed, the additional time might have allowed for some deeper dialogue and better time movement, ultimately enhancing the experience. As it stands, you get the overall story, but lose some of the details along the way.

Moving away from the plot, I have to say that the cast David Fincher brought together is great. From Jake Gyllenhaal, to Mark Ruffalo, to Robert Downey Jr., the cast all give wonderful performances that bring this case to life. Without this kind of emotion and believability to the characters,  the film would not be that engaging – the actors/actresses really save this story from its pacing and functional issues.

One of the high points of "Zodiac" is the great performances given by the all-star cast David Fincher assembled.

One of the high points of “Zodiac” is the great performances given by the all-star cast David Fincher assembled.

Another high point is Fincher’s cinematography. His angles/movement and ability to highlight some details of his characters through camera work  also help keep the viewer’s attention in a similar way as the acting (though not as important). Oddly, having seen some mention of the gruesome nature of the film, I expected some graphic sequences. However, compared to my assumptions, the film was fairly tame in the violence department (though my sensitivity may be dulled by some more recent adventures, such as “Drive”).

Lastly, I must mention the soundtrack which has its ups and downs. At times, the music is a throwback to the music of the times, or is just right to set an ominous mood. At others, the feel just seems off (for example, an intense scene involving a frantic search through records becomes almost comedic).

“Zodiac” is a decent film, and for certain tastes, could be quite tense. For me, it just had too many missteps to truly succeed. While I enjoyed watching the case unfold, the myriad of plot issues, along with the soundtrack hiccups, kept me from becoming totally engaged.

Final Score: 5.8/10

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