"Zodiac" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
In my opinion, I would say movies based off of real life murders or serial killers are much more terrifying than horror films. Sure, horror movies can bring to life things of nightmares, such as horrifying characters like Pennywise and Freddy Krueger, but it is nothing compared to the real life monsters, such as Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy. David Fincher, who is already a world-renowned director with movies like "Fight Club" and "Se7en", delivers his version of the murders by the Zodiac Killer in "Zodiac", Fincher's masterpiece of a film that documents the horrific and tragic crimes.
The movie follows cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is starting at his new position at the San Francisco Chronicle. He is getting into the groove of things when a letter from someone who identifies themselves as "The Zodiac" comes into their office. He claims he is the one responsible for the random killings throughout California, with demands that need to be met or he will kill again. Tagging along with crime reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) and working alongside the SFPD, especially detective Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo), Graysmith tries to put together the clues to find the man responsible for these horrific crimes.
This movie is adapted from the book written by Graysmith about his life and his journey to hunt down this sick man. Because of that, the film dives deep into the character development of Graysmith and the way his life unraveled due to this long-lasting mystery. I think Gyllenhaal does a fantastic job of portraying this character. It's a much different role that we have seen Gyllenhaal play before, with Graysmith being a "Boy Scout", which is mentioned multiple times throughout the movie. Because of this, I think this is one of the movies where you don't see Gyllenhaal play a character, but you rather see a real person on the screen. He totally embodies this role, and gives good dimension to his character and reactions to the world around him.
Ruffalo and Downey give fantastic performances as well, with each three of these men being incredibly different from one another. While Graysmith is more quiet and reserved, we have Avery who is very loud and obnoxious; he's borderline full of himself and only cares about what his best interest is. Then at the same time, Toschi is the straight shooter of this movie, knowing what his objective is and how he can try to achieve it. If Graysmith is the obsessive one and Avery being the self-indulgent character, Toschi is the only person who can separate themselves from the job and his own life at home. I think this is great writing and character development on the filmmaking aspect of it, but they wouldn't have worked if the trio playing them didn't do as well as they did.
Fincher is the best choice to make a movie like this. Like he has demonstrated multiple times before, he knows how to add the perfect amount of suspense, horror, and comedy, which is able to perfectly craft a movie like this. The film is very light in times, such as the moment where Graysmith and Avery go to a bar and drink multiple Aqua Velvas (which Graysmith says you shouldn't knock it before you try it). But then, Fincher goes extremely dark and delivers a skin-crawling scene where the Killer threatens to throw a woman's baby out of the window before killing her. There are numerous scenes with the killer that strike fear in the hearts of the viewers, but there is something about this scene that makes the viewer feel sick to their stomach. The reason why is because it shows the audience how sick and twisted this man is, and what he is ultimately capable of. Sure, killing random people are very damning acts, but to think about him killing a poor, innocent infant is absolutely sickening.
Consider the scene where Graysmith goes to question a man who worked with the lead suspect in his investigation, who created movie posters for an old cinema. He thinks that this is the way he can catch the killer once and for all, proving that the writing of the letters is the same as the writing on the film posters. However, when he gets to this man's house, he discovers that the man he went to question is actually the one who made the posters, and houses a mysterious basement that most people in California didn't have. It makes the viewer realize that our main character is in serious danger, and from the way that Fincher shot these scenes, it makes the viewer's heart race out of their chest and fills them with dread. Now, the viewer knows nothing will happen to Graysmith as he had to go on and write this book that the movie is based on, right? But, it's due to the terrifying nature of the scene and the perfectly shot segment that makes this movie so brilliant and terrifying.
The Zodiac Killer still hasn't been identified for sure, which is terrifying to think that there is a prospect that he's still prowling out there somewhere, looking for his next victim. Like the tagline for this movie, there is more than one way for a killer to take your life, which is the ultimate truth in the aspect for these characters. All of their lives have been ruined and taken over one way or another, which is both disheartening and sad to see. But, due to Fincher's brilliant directing and the amazing acting from the entire cast, they were able to pull off this beautifully haunting film that is perhaps one of Fincher's all-time best.