David Fincher’s Zodiac is the director’s first foray back into the darkly lit world of a serial killer since his 1995 breakthrough, Se7en. In its own epic, uniquely fascinating true-crime way, Zodiac is just about as great.
Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Robert Graysmith, upon whose true-crime expose books the film is based, a San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist with a zeal and passion for unsolvable puzzles. He meets his match when he cracks a code sent to the paper by the notorious “Zodiac,” a masked murderer (never caught) who terrorized the Bay Area in the late 60s and into the 70s.
Graysmith has two detectives (Mark Ruffalo and a surprising Anthony Edwards, formerly of “ER”-fame), a fellow reporter (Robert Downey Jr.) and his own children at his disposal, and still the exact nature of who or what the Zodiac was has washed away with time.
The film has a major suspect (Graysmith and the cops’ opinion of who Zodiac was) – Arthur Lee Allan (played with chilling aplomb by John Carroll Lynch, of “Fargo”), who looms over every scene he’s in with the distinct sense that he could’ve been the Zodiac killer. With Allan now long-since dead, we’ll never know. But the Zodiac killings stopped all those years ago and the mystery remains unsolved.
Fincher’s film is stylistically brilliant, re-creating the world of that time, place, etc. better than any film of this type since Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam (1999). It’s an astonishing film.