One can’t help but to wonder how David Fincher plans to create an intriguing story from a case that’s never been solved. Is it worth a three-hour commitment when we already know how the story ends?
Given, the whole story has never been pieced together in its entirety as based on police and newspapers records except for the true-crime book by Robert Greysmith upon which writer James Vanderbilt based his script, but does the innovative director pull it off?
Sort of. It’s not the kind of quality work many appreciate by Fincher, known for cult hits Se7en and Fight Club. Save for cinematographer Harris Savides’s few interesting angles and select vast skies, the film could just as easily have been a three-part miniseries on The History Channel or A&E, only lacking the usual assortment of re-enactors. In Zodiac, we get some of the best young (and hot!) actors in Hollywood.
The story is told between two intermingling perspectives. We have the detectives assigned to the case up and down the coast of California, most notably tortured San Francisco cops Toschi (Ruffalo) and Armstrong (Edwards) in addition to the staff of the San Francisco Chronicle, to whom the self-proclaimed serial killer, Zodiac, is sending letters bragging about his slayings and revealing details to taunt the ones who seek him.
Zodiac’s cryptic messages capture the attention of editorial cartoonist Robert Graysmith (yes, the very one who wrote the book and is played by here Gyllenhaal) and the interest of writer Paul Avery (RDJ) whose obsession with the killer only weakens an already fallen man. Assisted by a few other jurisdictions, the two sets of men proceed through never ending twists and turns, one dead end after another.
No liberties seem to be taken with the facts, a la Brian DePalma’s Black Dahlia, but that’s precisely the problem. There’s no thrill, no excitement?just a glossy regurgitation of the official record. We’re discussing over 35 years of information here, so it’s no surprise it clocks in at two hours, 38 minutes, but it feels like so much longer.
It’s certainly thorough, with solid performances, great sets and costuming and not without its moments of intense suspense, but it’s just not enough to keep it riveting and that’s a shame.