Friday, 15 August 2008


I enjoyed David Fincher’s 2007 film Zodiac, a true crime story about the astonishing stranger-than-fiction serial killer case from California in the 60s and 70s. The Zodiac killings have intrigued me for a number of years, since I first did a bit of research on them in connection with a book about codes for which I was asked to write a synopsis (but the publishers decided not to go ahead with the project.)

The film includes a couple of stars, Robert J. Downey Jr. (who plays a journalist who investigates but succumbs to drink – this bit of the story isn’t really stranger than fiction at all) and Brian Cox, who takes a relatively small part, that of a celebrity lawyer who is apparently contacted by the killer. The key part, however, is played by a newspaper cartoonist who becomes obsessed with the case – Jake Gylenhaal, playing Robert Graysmith, whose book formed the basis of the screenplay.

Zodiac is a long film, even though the original version was apparently somewhat truncated for cinema release. Fincher’s aim is, clearly, to achieve a mundane veracity, and in this tricky objective he succeeds. For the most part, I found the film gripping, although I also felt that it might have benefited from further cutting. But the story is so remarkable as to make for compelling viewing, despite (compared to some fictional serial killer films) the relative lack of sensationalised incident.

Inevitably, the ending is rather anti-climactic. I didn’t, however, feel that spoiled the effect of the film as a whole. But it did make me want to look into the Zodiac case again, and try to examine some of the details hinted at by Fincher, but not explored in the depth possible in a book, as opposed to a film.


Ali Karim said...

Great post on a great film - and again the case also fascinated me after I saw DIRTY HARRY as it formed the plot for the Eastwood movie.

Megan Abbott did a great post on the DVD release at RAP SHEET

Chilling stuff


Martin Edwards said...

Very chilling - I must get the DVD now....