Friday, January 11, 2008


I never wanted to see Zodiac when it was out in the theatres, even though I try to see Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo in most of the movies they’re in. I mostly avoided this latest movie because I knew they never caught the Zodiac killer. How good, how satisfying could this movie be?

Plenty good as it turned out. Zodiac is one of the best films of 2007.

Zodiac is based on the Robert Graysmith books (played by Gyllenhaal as a socially awkward cartoonist on the San Francisco Chronicle staff) about a real-life killer in the Bay Area in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s who killed viciously and apparently randomly, and who taunted the police with his cryptic letters. Kind of amazingly, the movie is less about the killer and more about how the people involved became obsessed with the case. Besides Gyllenhaal, the movie features Robert Downey, Jr. as Paul Avery, the reporter who covers the crimes for the newspaper, and Mark Ruffalo, as David Toschi, the detective assigned to the case. The film shows how this killer, these series of events, forever changed their lives.

The movie starts out in almost documentary style, and we chronologically follow along as the first crime is revealed, then the second. And we watch as Avery, Toschi and Graysmith are drawn in. And we’re drawn in as well, even though we know the outcome of the famous Zodiac case. And the movie reaches a certain if not complete level of satisfaction with its “aha!” moment, even though we know that no one went to prison for this crime. Still, the murder mystery in this film seems so fresh, so frightening, that we can’t wait for the next scene to lead us through the puzzle.

It seemed that Zodiac was released at a rather weird time of the year, weird, that is, for award nominations. Perhaps the studio didn’t think an old story that had no real ending was worth promoting. I predict that several Oscar nominations are forthcoming for this fine film that takes us back into a scary time, a rather obsessive time for several individuals.

Thumb’s up.


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