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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > Zodiac

MOVIE REVIEWS

ZODIAC (2007)

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox, John Carroll Lynch, Chloe Sevigny, Candy Clark, Elias Koteas, Donal Logue, Dermot Mulroney, James LeGros, Pell James, Philip Baker Hall, John Mahoney, Adam Goldberg and Tom Verica.

Screenplay by James Vanderbilt.

Directed by David Fincher.

Distributed by Paramount Pictures.  157 minutes.  Rated R.

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Zodiac

It's probably not a good thing that most movies about real-life serial killers now tend to glamorize the murderers.  There have, in fact, been a whole series of basically straight-to-video bio-films of some of the most horrific criminals in criminal history -- films like The Hillside Strangler, Ed Gein, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Gacy and others.  These movies -- many made by the same producers -- try to seem like they are giving an impartial reporting of the facts, yet they have almost always have a tendency to wallow in the horrors that they are reporting.

Even on the rare occasions when the killers are seriously taken on as cautionary tales in major motion pictures -- like Charlize Theron's spectacular performance as Aileen Wournos in Monster -- the audience is still asked to sympathize with someone who is doing unforgivable things.

Zodiac is in its way more disturbing and scary -- and a much better film -- than any of these films for a very simple reason.  We can't be asked to relate to the psychopath, because no one knows for sure who the Zodiac killer really was.  The Zodiac terrorized the San Francisco bay area in the late 60s-early 70s, but to this day, nearly 40 years after his first killings, no one has been indicted for the crimes.  Nor does anyone know for sure how many victims he (or she, potentially, I suppose) claimed. 

Zodiac captures the unease and paranoia of the 70s -- in fact it feels like a classic old film of the era much more than any current film.  It has strong acting, complicated characters and an ambiguous ending.  The suspects whip back and forth between several possibilities.  Even at the end, when the film intimates that it may be one specific man -- the same suspect many people, including the book which this is based on, have long suspected -- they still have to acknowledge that he was exonerated by all current detecting techniques.  They also bring in another suspect towards the end who at the very least seems rather suspicious and several major pieces of evidence seem to point to.

So was he guilty, just a coincidence or a McGuffin?   We never know, and to the credit of screenwriter James Vanderbilt and director David Fincher, they make no claim to have the answer either.  Zodiac is not a typical serial killer film because it is mostly about those searching for the killer, not the killer himself.  It is about the police and the journalists who follow his tracks even when the trail is beyond cold -- and the film takes place over a longer than twenty-year long period, during which the criminal disappears for years and years at a time.  Long after the rest of the world has moved on to newer, fresher horrors, these men try to find justice in a world where it just does not always appear.   (3/07)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2007 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: March 3, 2007.

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Copyright 2007   PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: March 3, 2007.