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July 20, 2014

Zodiac (2007)
Director: David Fincher
Actors: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr

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Synopsis: A serial killer emerges in the late ’60s/early ’70s in the San Francisco Bay area who goes by the moniker of ‘Zodiac’. He makes himself known through a series of cryptic letters sent to the San Francisco Chronicle and Police Department. Cartoonist, Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), detective Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and journalist Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr) all become increasingly mired in trying to track down the killer….

Review: David Fincher obviously found in the investigative backstory of the Zodiac killings of the late Sixties and early Seventies a narrative correlative to his own meticulous cinematic predilections. Thus, Fincher turns Zodiac into a cerebral, academic exercise: a chance to mire himself in a fastidiously designed work where his own elaborate staging, cinematography and production design mirror the dedication and obsessional zeal of the on-screen police research. Fincher outs this intent by opening the film on not just one, but two, bravura extended sequences detailing the ominous workings of the Zodiac killer and his sending of the first cryptic letter to the San Francisco Chronicle.

It’s possible that some viewers may find the work over-stylised, and Fincher has certainly been viewing his cinematic back-catalogue as Zodiac borrows in look and ethos from seminal Seventies thrillers like All the President’s Men and The Conversation. I personally immersed myself in Fincher’s vision, and admired his intent to draw the work away from its potential serial-killer genre trappings into something a little richer – an ironic commentary on the complexity and inherent difficulties of old-fashioned, paper-heavy, analogue detective work, coupled with the slyly interesting character studies of the three main investigators all slowly becoming sucked into the web of Zodiac’s cruel teasing game. (July 2014)

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