Just about the only beef I had heard going in to David Fincher's fantastic "Zodiac" is that, at 2 hours and 40 minutes, it's simply too long. Coming out, however, I couldn't think of one thing I would have cut from his best film yet.
In structure and tone, Fincher's true-crime saga about the pursuit of the Zodiac killer that terrorized California in the late '60s and '70s reminded me of "Prime Suspect" - sans, of course, Dame Helen Mirren.
Like that great BBC series, Fincher's movie takes an entirely nonslick view of police procedures. In this case, we get to feel all the frustrations as the two main cops, Mark Ruffalo (huzzah!) and Anthony Edwards (a pleasant surprise) chase down all the leads they can find and come tantalizingly close to their target.
Also like "Prime Suspect," the flick is as much a character study as it is a true-crime movie, and here Fincher has three actors up to his exacting standards in Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr. and Jake Gyllenhaal. Ruffalo, who I've liked ever since he made his debut in "You Can Count on Me," has been coasting for years now through a series of likable enough romantic comedies, but here Fincher gives him a well-rounded character to dig into, and he take full advantage (aside: watch for him soon with Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz and Rinko Kikuchi in Rian Johnson's heist flick "The Brothers Bloom," which has me jazzed even though it's only in preproduction now.)
And just as the Zodiac killer frustrated the cops, he also played games with the media, issuing his missives in code that he demanded be printed in newspapers. Fincher's newsroom (the San Francisco Chronicle) has a real "All the President's Men" feel to it (and, this being the '70s, were talking about white men here.) Downey plays boozy crime reporter Paul Avery, who put himself in the middle of the story, with just enough slime to make him believable. And Gyllenhaal, as the Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith, really gets to play the part of Fincher himself.
It was Graysmith's obsession with the Zodiac killer that led him to write the book Fincher's movie is based on, and this obsession makes the final act of the flick the most satisfying. Graysmith's - and Fincher's - hunger for the truth also makes this, for me, Fincher's best movie by far. Even without the illusion of fantasy, he manages to make the Zodiac killer a much more frightening boogeyman than he's come up with in the past.
As I read the closing titles, I found myself laughing. Inappropriate, perhaps, after watching the true story of a multiyear killing spree, but I couldn't help myself. I was laughing because I couldn't quite believe that Fincher had really pulled this off. That he actually put together all the pieces of this intricate puzzle and still managed to make such an entertaining movie. It's a real coup.
P.S. - If I have the time, and I think I will, I'll be going to see Craig Brewer's "Black Snake Moan" later today, so please feel free to check back for a review Monday morning.
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Posted by Reel Fanatic at 5:59 AM