I am big fan of David Fincher. A master story teller. Proof – Se7en and Fight Club. But lets leave those cult films aside for now.
The plot – Zodiac is about the serial killings in the 1960’s and 70’s by a man who called himself Zodiac. Its based on Robert Greysmith’s book of the same name. Robert was the official cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle around the time that the killings took place and later got obsessed with the case. The plot revolves around Paul Avery, the crime reporter at the newspaper and how he gets involved with the murders when Zodiac sends ciphers to prominent SF newspapers to get publicity. Robert is not taken seriously by his colleagues and though he proves his metal by solving the first cipher and coming up with real clues, he gets left behind as time goes by and Zodiac becomes more of an urban legend. Another central character is Dave Toschi who with his partner is in charge of investing into the murders from SFPD. Paul Avery and Dave Toschi come close to solving the murder but miss it by a shave because of some unforseen circumstances. This is when Robert Greysmith takes it upon himself to solve it.
Review – This movie could have been as great as Se7en or Fightclub but misses by a mile. The problems for me were the screenplay and the characters. Now I haven’t read Robert’s book but telling a story with a book is different. You can take up as much space as you want in a book and still make it interesting but its not the case with a movie. You only have that much time to enthrall the audience. The story itself pans over 20 odd years so to weave this in under 2 hours is a task by itself. The other weak link is Jake Gyllenhaal who plays Robert Greysmith. I believe he was chosen as his performance in Donnie Darko proved he could do both the naive and the obsessed sides pretty well and Roberts character in the film was the same. But Jake was the weakest link in the movie for me. His motivations were never made clear and his character development was patchy. He gets involved in the beginning, then is not and gets obsessed in the end. Robert Downey Jr. is great as this over-the-top-know-it-all reporter and so is Mark Ruffallo as inspector Toschi – no complaints here. The only bit that could have been done better was developing Robert Downey Jr.’s character better – one question I keep thinking about is why did he give up when he was so close solving the case?
It is still a good watch as Fincher makes sure the story is tightly knit and the performances are good enough to keep you from getting up despite the fundamental problem in the story and the characters. Maybe the book will give me my answers. Anybody read it?