I was aware of the Zodiac case before seeing this film, but I didn’t know about it in much detail. Thanks to David Fincher’s incredibly detailed and thorough film account, I felt much better informed, and became even more interested in the real life case. During the 1960’s a killer who called himself The Zodiac, murdered several people (mostly young couples, although in two cases the young male victims survived). San Francisco became his next focus when he murdered a taxi driver, and sent a series of frightening and bizarre letters to newspapers.
Fincher’s film focuses on real life newspaper cartoonist Robert Graysmith(Jake Gyllenhaal)who tried to crack the many codes the killer put in his letters, and started his own investigation into who the elusive killer was.
The genius of this film is that we are gripped, terrified and left trying to work out the killers identity; even though it is well known that the killer was never caught. Even though we know that fact, the film gets us so caught up in the case that you forget that and are on the edge of your seat hoping the prime suspect turns out to be the man and get arrested.
Fincher shows us the reality of police work too. In reality officers don’t solve crimes by kicking in doors, having car chases etc, but by looking though files, connecting with other police departments, questioning people, interviewing and profiling and it can take years; quite often they hit more dead ends than breaks in the case, but they keep going.
Mark Ruffalo is excellent as Detective Dave Toschi(the detective who inspired Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt). He thinks he has his man, but he has no solid evidence that he can use to arrest him. The diner scene between him and Graysmith is my favourite in the film, where Toschi says to him “easy, Dirty Harry”. Toschi knows that in reality he can’t drag his suspect in just because of coincidence and gut feeling, despite desperately wanting to do so. Harry Callahan may have done, but in reality you just can’t do that, even if it later turns out your first instinct was right.
Superb performances, some very creepy moments and detailed recreations of the various murders that are accurate, but not overly graphic(very respectful to the victims family and friends who may watch this film). The lake attack is one of the scariest and upsetting screen murder sequences I’ve ever seen. The use of Donovan’s Hurdy Gurdy Man(already a song that sounds freaky to me)means I just can’t listen to that song now, it instantly makes me think of this film now.
I think this is Fincher’s best film, and is one of the best true life crime films out there. Watch it if you’re interested in the real case, or are just looking for a good flick.