Directed by David Fincher
Released by Paramount Home Video
For true crime aficionados, Zodiac may just be the holy grail of cinema. After enduring years of DTV serial killer biopics, as well as DePalma’s wretched take on the Black Dahlia, director David Fincher has delivered the ultimate breath of fresh air with one of the most engaging police procedurals ever filmed. Fans expecting another Se7en may find themselves bored with this epic of talking heads and paper trails, but most viewers will find themselves scrambling to Wikipedia hungry for more facts on the infamous unsolved case.
The plot details have already been well-discussed (read Nomad’s bored rant), but it should be noted that Zodiac is a film entirely about obsession – a killer’s obsession with infamy, a group’s obsession with catching him, and Fincher’s own obsession with the facts. In short, it’s the horror movie equivalent of JFK. You want murder and mayhem? Go watch a slasher movie.
If there’s one thing Mr. Fincher has proven ever since he broke into the biz it’s that he loves to make people feel uncomfortable and he once again brings his brand of melancholy and paranoia to even the most mundane of scenes. Furthermore, Zodiac sets itself apart by not conforming to the conventions of this subgenre. The script doesn’t revolve around fictional heroes and there’s no niave attempts to get inside the mind of the killer. You also won’t find anything in the way of convenient character arcs, three-act structures, or quaint Hollywood resolutions. Fincher simply lets the real-life details appear like ripples in the water, which are as scattered and random as the Zodiac’s victims. The result is that your guard is never down, even though the actual murders are few and far between.
While Fincher instills a few of his visual flourishes, the gimmicky style that bogged down Panic Room has been completely jettisoned, in its place the restrained bright look of a classic 70s film. Most importantly, he captures the mood of the era without lowering to cheese ball Forest Gump level period clichés (you won’t hear Hendrix or “Freebird” anywhere on the soundtrack). Each individual cast-member is completely believable and carries their own set of eccentricities and while you’ll find yourself missing certain characters during long-stretches, the events are gripping enough to sustain the 158-minute running time.
Every frame of Zodiac is packed with methodical attention to detail and its massive production history was a bit of a revolution in the biz (Fincher shot it without using film or tape, making it the first all-digital Hollywood movie). With a film this epic, you can expect one helluva special edition, right? Nope. There isn’t a single extra anywhere on the DVD. Since Fincher is renowned for releasing jam-packed multi-disc editions of his work, this means only one thing: Another double-dip. Even if you’re the world’s biggest Zodiac fan, this pathetic release isn’t worth a penny. Just wait for the Director’s Cut DVD already announced for 2008. Shame on you, Paramount!
Zodiac is a film that demands a lot from its audience and offers nothing in the way of cheap rewards. Like the best David Fincher films it’s a mature, calculated, and uncompromised work that exists completely outside of the box. Bring your attention-span and enjoy one of the best films of the year!
4 1/2 out of 5
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