Zodiac

Out Now On-Demand

As far as mass murderers go, one of the biggest mysteries was and still is the identity of the self-titled Zodiac who killed at least 5 in San Fransisco, in the 1960s/70s. He was never caught despite his penchant for sending notes & coded messages to the press, usually indicating his disgust at authority’s inability to nail him. Years later his most famous and chilling note was received, reading “Zodiac, 37 – Cops, 0”.

Film follows the policemen and newspaper writers (including Gyllenhaal, Ruffalo, Downey Jnr) who became obsessed with cracking the murderer’s code and identifying him, during the time he held the city hostage. The top shelf cast is joined by director David Fincher ('Se7en', 'Fight Club'). Looking for a return to form after 'Panic Room', Fincher has picked his forte - in the genre that made him - with this gritty, mystery/thriller.

Trailers

Directed by

Written by

Crime, Mystery, Thriller, True Story & Biography

139mins

Rating: R16 contains violence

USA

Official Site

flicks

This is awesome.

It’s based on the titular killer and the San Franciscan detectives & newspaper men who hunted his identity in the 70s.

The Zodiac sent cryptic codes & goading letters to police and reporters. They – in an era without email, mobiles phones or even faxes – tried to play the game, chasing as many real leads as false ones.

Director David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club) is more restrained here than previously. The story is told in a painfully objective, matter of fact manner – unraveling without a heavy hand. In much of the first half we’re presented with the murders, and a puzzle of facts & theories – plonking us right at the center of the (still unsolved) mystery.

The film changes gear when the newspaper cartoonist (Gyllenhaal) – who’d been following the case and was handy at breaking the Zodiac’s codes - becomes obsessed with it, putting at risk his family, when all others have given up. From here, the film becomes ridiculously involving.

Holding your attention throughout, and holding the film together when the plot becomes convoluted, are the performances. It’s rare to be this blown away by acting; certainly the best ensemble of the year so far.

Gyllenhaal – one of our generation’s best? - has a unique, unpredictable presence. He’s at once both recognisable and idiosyncratic. Robert Downey, who I usually find a bit wayward, is pitch perfect as a funny & tragic, drunk reporter. And least we forget Mark Ruffalo - underrated, and brilliant here as the absorbed detective whose professional life is dominated by the search for the killer. When the three leads hit their straps, you can’t take your eyes off the screen. They’re well supported by Brian Cox & Chloë Sevigny.

The set design & costuming is stunning - the era feels meticulously recreated; resulting in a film that looks like it was made in the 70s as much as one set then.

Fincher creates a palpable sense of authenticity and, combined with superb performances, a mystery of intense curiosity.

[P.S.]

Empire Magazine

press

Taunts you to the edge of the seat and leaves you perched there – just as perplexed – almost three hours later. But what a magnificent journey...

NZ Herald

press

Fascinating but often wearying story about the late-60s San Francisco serial killer...

The Hollywood Reporter

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Firing on all cylinders as a creepy thriller, police procedural and "All the President's Men"-style investigative newsroom drama, the smart, extremely vivid production oozes period authenticity...

The New York Times

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Rarely has a film with so much blood on its hands seemed so insistently alive...

The Press [Christchurch]

press

1/2 Fascinating and gripping though it may be, Zodiac is also overloaded with information and takes its time telling the tale. The audience is hard-pressed not to lose interest by the ending 158 minutes later, which we know is not going to have a huge pay-off for these men's broken lives...

TV3 [Kate Rodger]

press

1/2 Zodiac is the best David Fincher watch since Se7en - his meticulous attention to detail and mood, and the incredibly subtle and clever way he racks up the tension...

Variety [USA]

press

Conveying an astonishing array of information across a long narrative arc while still maintaining dramatic rhythm and tension, this adaptation of Robert Graysmith's bestseller reps by far director David Fincher's most mature and accomplished work...

Suspenseful and Chilling

James Vanderbilt's script if full of gut-wrenching anxiety, and enthralling, engaging, and sometimes even witty dialogue. The film succeeds from great performances, particularly from Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo. Zodiac ranks in at one of David Fincher's best, alongside The Social Network and Fight Club.


DIRTY FINCHER

Here's the story behind the true story that inspired DIRTY HARRY. Hardgoing on first viewing - but well worth it. Painstaking research translates into a detailled examination, recreation and "solving" of a crime. If you loved Oliver Stone's JFK then this is along those lines. Slow, deliberate and consumately crafted by a filmmaker with nothing to prove. It goes beyond perfectionist and into obsession in terms of detail. Cinematography, soundtrack, costume, sets, casting - everything is just so. Stunning and it gets even better after repeat viewings. Honest. Well worth the effort - it rewards by the truck load.

Pharmf276

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Pharmf276

Very nice site!

New ground being broken

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New ground being broken

If you count his music video output as a "first movie" (just pretend it makes sense), David Fincher may be the most precisely consistent director in Hollywood. Every few years he launches a stupendous, nuanced-yet-bombastic assault on mainstream film, redefining in the process just what we feel we have a right to expect from movies. (Chuck Pahlaniuk, rather immodestly, declared Fight Club the movie against which he would now measure all others).

And then a year or two later, he follows it up with a lazy also-ran of a pic, a carbon copy of its predecessor's look and feel without a skerrick of the same depth or exploration. The Game as poor man's Se7en, all silver-retained grime and desperate stabs at some sort of philosophical relevance; Panic Room as Fight Club without the pesky ideology. (Alien3 as frustrating impersonation of a decent music video, bogged down by a story that nobody ever liked, with the good bits taken out).

Zodiac, the eagerly-awaited Next Project, was going to be a lot of things. For a while it was going to be a savage comedy-drama about chefs. Then it was Black Dahlia, shot in b/w and full period trappings. For a couple of glorious seconds, Zodiac was going to be Mission: Impossible 3, which would never happen unless Chuck Pahlaniuk was allowed to wreak his unique brand of Airport-Bukowski popcult schlock on the script - which meant it never happened. And so Zodiac wound up being Zodiac.

So a good way to ponder Zodiac's merit might be to speculate as to what the next film will be doing a poor imitation of.

Will it be the eerie period-pop soundtrack, dispassionately refusing to go unequivocably "dark" during the murder scenes? Yeah, it might be; certainly there were Nine Inch Nailses and Dust Brotherseses during the 70s; the first hint of Fincher's newfound restraint is that we're not forced to listen to any of them.

Will it, perchance, be the physical look of the picture, the lovingly beiged suburban vistas, Presidents' Men newsrooms, Bullitt cop-shops? Mmm... if it's really lazy picture, sure, we'll see some more of those. Zodiac is arguably Fincher's most film-aware pic, and that's saying something considering this is a guy who uses physical film-splicing as a plot device. The look of the film is almost entirely dictated by the look of films from the period. As he'd proposed doing with Black Dahlia, Fincher's solution to the problem of immersing savvy audiences in a period environment is simply to make everything - production design, stock, lighting - look like film of that period. However, where Martin Scorsese's use of a similar gambit for The Aviator just came off as pat gimmickry, here it's immersive from the get.

What's exciting about Zodiac, though, is that Fincher's energetic iconoclasm is here being put to use primarily in the establishment of the film's tone. Rather than a cosmetic set of natty tricks that just happens to belie a masterful narrative, here the real work is being done in pitching the film just so: dramatic, loaded with real characters and situations, yet witty and ceaselessly fun.

There's pretty pictures and neat chronological riffs, such a deft mix of broad strokes and fastidious detail employed to sell the timeframe that most of it will go unnoticed; but all of that is look and feel. The new ground being broken here is in just how daringly Zodiac allows itself to tell a fairly dark story, and do it in a way that's not just gripping, but downright enjoyable. And he can copy that as many times as he likes.

retort to "Jennifer"

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retort to "Jennifer"

In retort to the first line of the review by "Jennifer", I was absolutely correct in naming this film "a brilliant mix of film noir, thriller and documentary" as quite literally, Film noir means: "Black Film"; and describes a genre of film which typically features dark, brooding characters, corruption, detectives, and the seedy side of the big city.

In Zodiac, the noir aspects are definitly proven, as per my earlier review. Another way to look at it: films with a grim, urban setting that deal mainly with dark and violent passions. Film Noir is a term given by the french to any style of dark movie most commonly found between 1940 and 1960. Zodiac is set in the 1960's and does show many aspects of film noir and many shooting styles of the 1960s in it's production.

Gripping...

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Gripping...

Very authentic 70's feel and the film kept my attention from beginning to end. A couple of really nice suspense moments in there too. Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo were excellent.

Really enjoyed!

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Really enjoyed!

It may have been a long movie but was in suspense for every minute! The ending was a bit of an anti-climax however, it is based on a true story. Fully recommend.

I highly highly recommend

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I highly highly recommend

I admit this may not be everyone's cup of tea. You do need to watch carefully & invest the healthy running time. BUT! I did and found it the best movie of year easily.

So, I highly highly recommend.

This is the dawning...

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This is the dawning...

Well made, very well acted and absorbing but not riveting. History detail people will love it. Perhaps I expected more suspense and twists. Came out thinking if I hadn't have seen it, it wouldn't have mattered.

"Circumstances alter Cases"

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"Circumstances alter Cases"

This opened with a hiss and a roar, the first couple killed really looked the part.Yes this had a very mid twentieth century aesthetic but for me that gave this movie a dull set design. I felt the first half of the movie was better dressed than the second part. Although I understand this was 'film noir' the seventies were a very colourful time in western countries, particularly USA. Also at the half way point we had been bombarded with so much information that it all became a little confusing for the viewer. This was a very long movie and it could have been condensed a bit more.

I agree the acting was well played and convincing and it was good to see a true story from the archives of crime and the processes that confronted the police and press of those times. It would be good to see The Brits do a Scotland Yard number from the same era.