Zodiac ( Movie Review )

Posted: May 1, 2013 in Movie/show reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , ,


The poster above is my computer’s wallpaper. It is a reminder to me that I don’t have to be funny to be good. I’m going to start this off by saying that Zodiac is my all time favorite movie.   It is a great movie. The story is about the most infamous murders in the San Francisco Bay area during the 1960’s.

Don’t go in expecting a gore fest. In the director’s own words (David Fincher), he did not want to market this like Seven, because it was completely different, all things considered. And he did direct Seven, so it’s not like he has an agenda against his own movie.

The first few murders in Zodiac are amateurish, and it’s portrayed quite… realistically. This isn’t like in most movies where you shoot a guy once, and he’s dead immediately. Considering the guns, and the fact that the human body was made to be resilient, people here do not die very easily. The rest of the murders occur offscreen, and the viewer only finds out about them through either the detectives, or the reporters.

We are introduced to a political cartoonist, Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), as he finds his way into a meeting of reporters discussing the Zodiac killer. The Zodiac killer has sent them a letter, saying that if they do not publish a cipher – containing his real identity and whereabouts – that he will go on a killing spree. We see Robert Graysmith make up a copy, and we expect him to solve it.

In fact, I rolled my eyes. “What? A cartoonist is gonna solve this cipher that baffles the FBI?”

Nope. The cipher is solved by a married couple that likes to solve puzzles. Again, this movie is based on a true story, and the director and the writer spent months trying to get it as accurately as possible. I find this quite admirable, because the temptation to throw in a ton of Dirty Harry-like shoot outs, and a ten minute car chase for good measure must have been quite strong.

I have to be honest with you. I cannot, in good conscience, even attempt to explain to you the plot. The fun in this movie is trying to figure out the mystery for yourself, and trust me, you will not regret it. Throughout the movie, I had the urge to just search the Zodiac killer on Google. But, I persisted. I wanted to solve it on my own, and most of all, I wanted to see our heroes solve it.

I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I found it quite satisfying. A lot more satisfying than most Hollywood endings. I’ll just make a short list of what I liked about it and what I did not like about it.

1. The plot. I am a sucker for murder mysteries, as I’ve said numerous times in my previous blogposts. In fact, I would be a mystery writer if I, well, could write a decent mystery. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at making up mind-boggling cases that Holmes himself would take at least an entire book to solve. So, I give this movie a ton of props for being able to keep me guessing and in suspense. Awesome job.

2. The characters. The movie is based on true events, and on real people. Yet, I was surprised that each and every one of the characters was fully fleshed out and real. For example, the lead detective of the case is Dave Toschi. At the time, the real Toschi was quite famous because he trained Steve McQueen in Bullitt, and was the role model for Clint Eastwood’s character, Dirty Harry.

In fact, the villain in Dirty Harry is sort of based on the infamous Zodiac killer. I have to say, this has a pitch perfect cast, and memorable characters. I’m not very good at remembering names, but these characters will stay with me for a very long time.

3. The theme. Oh, I don’t mean the music, though I like the music, too. Zodiac isn’t really about the serial killer.. Zodiac is about obsession. Robert Graysmith becomes obsessed with trying to solve the Zodiac killings because he believes that no one else cares. His wish is to just look him in the eye and know it’s him. It was inspiring. To think that a cartoonist would go to such lengths. The good nature of Graysmith makes it very easy to root for him, and that means that in one of the most suspenseful scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie, my heart was actually pounding and I was jumping out of my seat.

Obsession, it shows, is not without cost. And what a great cost it is indeed.

4. The realism. I was reading a review of this movie before I watched it. And it was one of the few negative reviews that I’d come upon thus far. The reviewer, and I’ll paraphrase a bit here, knocked a few points off the film for the simple fact that the writer and director did not add the obligatory car chase scene, and some shoot outs involving the serial killer and the SFPD. I was baffled by this.

I love car chases, I love shoot outs, and I love action movies. But, this is not an action movie. This is not a traditional serial killer movie. No, this is a movie based on real events, and it won’t simply fabricate a car chase to get a few more bucks at the theatres. The reason why I love this movie so very much is the fact that it stays true to the story. I was reminded of another movie, Adaptation. In Adaptation, Nicolas Cage plays the real life screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. He’s approached by a producer to write the script for a book, and he gets flustered explaining that he wants to remain true to the story. He doesn’t want to write in a romance, a car chase, or a hostage crisis at the building your wife works in. (Like if you get that movie reference.)

And that’s what the movie does. It’s true to the story. And it’s a lot more satisfying for it.

Okay. What didn’t I like about it?

1. … Hold on. Let me think of something…  I’m serious. I can think of something. It doesn’t have any computers in the movie? Nope. Cannot think of anything.

This is not a perfect movie. I don’t think there will ever be a perfect movie… or a perfect anything, really. It’s not that I think it’s flawless, it’s just that the things I like about the movie completely outshine all the mistakes that there may be in this film. Think of it like this. There’s a huge blinding spotlight on all the great things about it, and there’s a tablecloth on all the bad things about it.

I don’t really want to remove the tablecloth and see the problems. I want to watch it again, and enjoy the spotlights. So, I suggest you watch it for yourself, and find your own spotlights within the movie. If I were to nitpick, there was a slight problem, I think, in the movie. Robert Downey Jr.’s character, a reporter, is playing the old video game, Pong. I think that’s what it is called. Anyways, he stops playing, and the computer keeps scoring against him. Yet the score remains the same: 15-9.

So, I guess that’s a minor mistake. Or maybe it isn’t. I’m not sure. Maybe video games in those days only counted up to a certain number? That’s one tablecloth removed for you. I hope you do watch this movie. I certainly loved it, and I hope you like it, too.

Please remember to Like, Follow, and Comment. I’d appreciate it a lot if you do all three. And… Thanks a lot. For just reading this. I really appreciate that.

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review. It’s a long, long movie but kept me watching the whole time and wondering if they were ever going to catch this guy or not. Obviously, I knew the answer but I still sat there in total suspense.

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