Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox
Director: David Fincher
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Based on the actual case files of one of the most intriguing unsolved crimes in the nation s history Zodiac is a thriller from David Fincher director of Se7en and Panic Room. As a serial killer terrifies the San Francisco ... more »
MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 03/03/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"David Fincher, director of the fascinating, impeccably composed, cerebral "Zodiac" has not heretofore been known for his subtlety though his "Fight Club," "Alien3" and "Seven" are filled with Life and a doomed even ugly sense of reality. But "Zodiac," the story of the Northern California serial killer, who was more aware of his reputation and celebrity than any Hollywood starlet, gives us a subtler, more rational Fincher than his previous films would suggest. There is very little of the trademark Fincher violence and brutality here and more of a psychologically astute and emotionally cognizant one.
"Zodiac" is a story of Men working together for a common goal: that of capturing the Zodiac killer. There is the Police primarily consisting of San Francisco PD Homicide, David Toschi (a remarkably committed and persuasive Mark Ruffalo) and William Armstrong (stalwart and dedicated Anthony Edwards) and the San Francisco Chronicle reporters Paul Avery (intelligent, pathetically alcoholic Robert Downey) and Robert Graysmith, who would go on to write the book about the Zodiac murders portrayed by the excellent and wounded, ultimately crazed-by-the-case, Jake Gyllenhaal.
As a rule, in most movies of late dealing with serial killers, the serial killer is merely a jumping off point for brutal and disgusting slash and dash murders. But here Fincher has stepped back, adjusted his sights and telescoped on the psychological and emotional effects of the killings, the endless procedural details of the investigation (handwriting experts, the "2500" suspects), the letters sent to the SF Chronicle by Zodiac and the detritus of a 20+ year investigation that wears down and whittles away at any kind of normal life for Toshi and Graysmith. As such "Zodiac" is more about the furtive, brutal legacy of the Zodiac murders and its effect on these two men than it is about the Zodiac killer himself.
Gyllenhaal plays Graysmith as a man possessed: alternately repulsed by the Zodiac as a mass murderer but at the same time fascinated by his facility with the obscure language of codes, symbols and puzzles and his seemingly insatiable, preening desire for celebrity. Matching his intensity is Ruffalo's Toschi. Ruffalo has never been more persuasive and effective even bettering his feral performance in "In the Cut." Both men are obsessed with Zodiac and both pay for this obsession with the hard currency of years and loves lost and never regained.
"Zodiac" goes on a bit too long but its ultimate success can be attributed to its brilliant, careful and intricate accumulation and dissemination of case detail that forms the backbone of this tragic, interesting and intelligent film. The larger tragedy that this film inadvertently points out though is that Zodiac's murderous swath across California in the mid 20th. Century now seems oddly remote, old-fashioned and even quaint in this time of 9/11 and international terrorism.
This Director's Cut Special Edition was worth the wait
Cubist | United States | 01/08/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After the technically accomplished but ultimately hollow thriller Panic Room (3-Disc Special Edition), director David Fincher returns to familiar subject matter with Zodiac, a dramatization of the murders perpetuated by the infamous serial killer known as Zodiac that terrorized the San Francisco Bay area in the late 1960s and early 1970s. With Seven (New Line Platinum Series), Fincher seems like an obvious choice to direct this film but those of you expecting a rehash of that film will be disappointed. With Zodiac, he faces the daunting challenge of making an exciting thriller that runs two hours and forty minutes long where the killer was never caught. He does this by focusing on the people who investigated the case and how it affected them.
This is a film that shows people talking and doing research - hardly, dynamic, cinematic material but Fincher makes it fascinating with strong performances from his talented cast and a solid screenplay to anchor the film. Like Michael Mann's equally obsessive serial killer movie, Manhunter (Restored Director's Cut Divimax Edition), Fincher spends a lot of his movie showing offices buzzing with activity as the case heats up and we see people hard at work as the police, FBI, the Chronicle and even the CIA all try to decipher the Zodiac's code and solve the case. He also show the minutia of their methods while also reminding us of the limits of technology at the time (no personal computers, no internet, no DNA testing, etc.). These people faced a monumental task of sifting through hundreds of false leads and crank calls from the substantial information that might actually further the case.
Zodiac presents a wealth of information and invites you to sift through it like the three protagonists. In fact, there is so much to absorb that repeated viewings will undoubtedly reveal more details that might not have been caught upon an initial viewing. The film's long running time allows you to gradually immerse yourself in the film and the story it tells. However, it never feels too long because Fincher maintains a brisk, efficient pace cramming as much detail and information as he can into every scene. The killer is a fascinating enigma and his encrypted letters, his blatant taunting of the police, and the discrepancies between murders only it makes it more interesting. It is easy to see why people became obsessed with this case. Ultimately, the Zodiac case doesn't just leave a trail of actual bodies but also collateral damage in the form of failed marriages, ended partnerships and substance abuse. And this is just the people who investigated the case. The toll taken on the victims who survived, their families and those of the people who were killed is inconceivable. A whole other movie could be made about them. Fincher has made a smart, engaging thriller that suggests a new direction for the filmmaker, one that places an emphasis on character and story instead of atmosphere and set design.
Last year, Paramount released an obligatory bare bones DVD and in the meantime, Fincher and DVD producer extraordinaire, David Prior have assembled an in-depth two-disc special edition that covers all aspects of the production. The director has also added five minutes back into the film that improves on an already great motion picture.
The first disc features an audio commentary by director David Fincher. He touches upon the "oddly personal" period details as much of the film takes place during his childhood and around areas he lived. This also informed the period songs he picked for the film. This is the kind of engaging, informative track we've come to expect from Fincher.
Even better is the second commentary by actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr., producer Brad Fischer, screenwriter James Vanderbilt, and crime novelist James Ellroy. Fischer and Vanderbilt talk about how closely they stuck to the actual facts of the case and delve into its details. Ellroy, a self-proclaimed fan of the film, does his entertaining Demon Dog of crime fiction persona that fans of his love while also talking about the film's place in crime fiction. Downey and Gyllenhaal provide all kinds of anecdotal information with Downey displaying his trademark dry sense of humour.
The second disc is broken up into two sections: extras dealing with the film and ones dealing with the actual Zodiac murders. "Zodiac Deciphered" is an hour-long documentary on the making of the film. Producer Brad Fischer and screenwriter James Vanderbilt talk about the origins of the project. We see how each of the film's key locations were faithfully recreated, often shooting at the place where one of the murders took place. Period costumes were authentically recreated from police reports and evidence photographs. When actual locations could not be used, the San Francisco Chronicle offices, they were built from scratch on a soundstage. Fincher nailed the newspaper office down to the tiniest details like vintage rotary phones, typewriters, etc. There is plenty of on-the-set footage that shows Footage and co. at work.
"The Visual Effects of Zodiac" takes a look at how CGI was used not only to recreate certain period details of San Francisco but also the blood in the murder scenes. We see before and after comparison shots and it is incredible how seamlessly the effects are integrated into the film.
The "Previsualization" for three scenes compares the computer animated storyboards with the final product in the film.
Also included is a theatrical trailer.
"This is the Zodiac Speaking" is a four-part documentary on the actual Zodiac murders, featuring interviews with original investigators and the surviving victims. These featurettes present the facts of each murder along with crime scene photographs and vintage TV news footage, taking us through each one in detail.
Finally, there is "His Name was Arthur Leigh Allen." Police investigators and people that knew him talk about the prime suspect in the Zodiac murders. Friends recount chilling anecdotes about the man and investigators provide their own accounts to paint a disturbing portrait."
Zodiac - true crime drama at it's finest
Eddie Lancekick | Pacific Northwest | 03/03/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Perhaps the most famous "criminals" in our modern day society are serial killers. Their crimes are brutal, their motives sometimes following patterns, while at other times seeming completely random. The weapons they use can vary just as much. Their want for attention and seemingly inability to be apprehended quickly make them celebrities of a sort. Aside from Jack the Ripper, one of the most prolific serial killers would have to be the "Zodiac killer" who terrorized Vallejo California and the surrounding area in the late sixties and early seventies. What brings this case under even further scrutiny, however, could also be what helped make Jack the Ripper so legendary; the killer was never found.
There have been other films done that center on the Zodiac case. This is the first that really tries to tackle the whole thing, and top it off with a major motion picture debut peppered with several star actors. As someone who has read a lot about high profile crimes and particularly this case, I can honestly say in my humble opinion that I think Director David Fincher did a good job. I felt there were two major scenes in the movie that were important to include that have often been overlooked in other film and even documentary portrayals. One is the interview with the two police officers shortly after the murder of a cab driver in San Francisco, and the other is how they showed that the Zodiac might not have been a stranger to Darlene Elizabeth Ferrin. The film does a good job of balancing the horrific crimes and the sequence of events that start a thorough but at times congested and chaotic investigation. After the smoke of a 9mm pistol clears, the questions begin, but things only get more difficult when the Zodiac's letters and ciphers start raining into mailboxes. One of them is the paper that cartoonist Robert Graysmith (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) works at. As Graysmith starts realizing that the killer's ciphers are just a small part of the clues needed to solve the case, he dives head first into a whirlwind of lost leads and unturned stones. Mark Ruffalo is superb as Inspector David Toschi, who along with Graysmith ends up down a path of broken chances and burnout that will change both men forever. This film's true appeal is in its ability to seamlessly take us through the timeline of attacks, detective work, and continual zodiac mystique. Instead of concentrating on the "fear" that the public felt, Fincher is able to concentrate more on fitting in the investigation and the suspects that it yields and step it up a notch towards the end with some final riveting, provocative discoveries. It is almost eerie that an arrest was never made, and yet the coincidental matches don't come down to one "possible" suspect, but seems to create an array of "probable" ones. The only major complaint I have about the film (and this counters my praise of it "tackling" everything) is the fact it is a bit long.
Gyllenhaal and Ruffalo do great in their respective roles, and Robert Downey Jr. is superb as the wisecracking journalist Paul Avery. Speaking of wisecracking, the film does have its comedy laden moments of some sarcastic quips now and again. Make no mistake about it though, it's recreation of the killing scenes as well as the downward spiral that Graysmith and others fall into chasing down clues make the film "Zodiac" a fitting film for this complex and frustrating case. The end credits were nice as we also got to read about some of the people portrayed in the film, like Graysmith and Avery, and see what happened in their lives in later years. The soundtrack was also fitting for the period and the haunting track "Hurdy Gurdy Man" by Donovan adds a cryptic touch in the portrayal of those dark days of Vallejo all those years ago."
A Dark Obsession Becomes Even Darker
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 01/09/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"ZODIAC is director David Fincher's finest film to date. All of the preparatory exercises in violence and horror he served so well in such films as FIGHT CLUB and SEVEN now are even more terrifying because of the manner in which he internalizes the events of the infamous Zodiac killer of the 1960s and 1970s and allows us to see how the murders and lack of proof of the perpetrator destroyed the personal lives of those bound to reveal Zodiac's identity. The story of course is true, as documented in Robert Graysmith's book (adapted extremely well for the screen by James Vanderbilt), and the history is so well known that rehashing it in a review is pointless. But on to the production.
Filmed in the Bay area the film has that peculiar light known to artists of the region but rarely captured so well as it is here by cinematographer Harris Savides: the sunlight (when visualized is brilliant and the night portions are dank not only form the seeming constant rain but also form the seediness of the story's message. The acting is of the highest caliber: newspaper cartoonist Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal, in a standout role), police inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo, in one of his finest performances), news writer Paul Avery (Robert Downey, Jr.), Melvin Belli (Brian Cox), Inspector William Armstrong (Anthony Edwards), Graysmith's long-suffering wife Melanie (Chloë Sevigny), down to the more minor roles are all pitch perfect.
What makes this film work so well is the emphasis on the human aspect of how violence, especially random and uncontrolled, alters the psyches of people. The breakdown from the stress of the fruitless and frustrating investigation by each of the primary characters is heart wrenching. How much of this is actor driven by such talented pros and how much is due to Fincher's directorial abilities is probably a moot point. The very long unwinding of this struggle (158 minutes) becomes almost unbearably tense. While the Added Features of this set open windows of information that delve more deeply into this unsolved horror story, the film still stands solidly on its own without the added accoutrements. This is a very fine film that is worthy of the many awards that are dangling in space at the moment. Grady Harp, January 08"