A Filmmaker’s Review: 'Zodiac' (2007)
3/5 - An enjoyable film with little more to offer than common thriller tropes
Zodiac (2007) is always a movie I have considered strange in the thriller genre because it is based entirely off true events. But then again some aspects and coincidences in the movie make some sections slightly unbelievable. Sometimes misleading in its approach and confusing in its outlook, Zodiac (2007) is a good film to enjoy, but not to think about too much. I believe that Zodiac (2007) is one of those films that when you watch it once, it has an effect but afterwards it tends to lose meaning a bit. Since I watched it three times, I can tell you that in my case, that is what happened.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the movie is very well-made and it is a great watch any day of the week. But, the one thing I didn’t like is the fact that it was so very heavy on the thriller movie tropes. The random phone calls, the staring someone down in a shop and the man who becomes a target etc. I find it quite hard to believe that some of these things actually happened and since they are such common thriller movie tropes, fairly insulting to the avoiding-police somewhat intelligence of the actual Zodiac himself.
Before you all ask, yes I read the book before I saw the film and the book portrays these incidents quite differently. In the film they are long, drawn out moments in which when they happen, the lead man can’t stop talking about them to himself. But, in the book they are philosophical moments where in which he ponders upon how far he is in solving the case. They seem slightly more believable but I’m going to need some hard evidence before I say that ‘yes I can thoroughly believe that one of the most masterful minds in criminal history was breathing heavily down your phone line instead of actually threatening you.’
Sometimes I think to myself about the cinematography of the film as well. It is classic David Fincher. There’s a lot of creepy close-ups when things are about to happen, there’s a lot of cuts between multiple storylines and there’s a lot of instances where time seems to slow down. I think that Fincher’s signature style really works in this film but also gives rise to repetition, something that the real Zodiac was not too fond of by the looks of his cases. So, on the basis of how well the cinematography presents the story to us it is not so great, but on how well the cinematography is overall (without said real story in our sights), it is far far better and deserves a good amount of recognition.
The third thing I want to discuss is the misleading nature of the casting to the film. Initially we have Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. in the film, in that order of casting. Given that Robert Downey Jr. is actually only in the first half of the film means that he really shouldn’t be in the lead cast at all. He is literally only there to sell the movie. The main characters are in fact Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo with Robert Downey Jr.’s name there to advertise the movie. When you watch it, it is of great surprise to how little he is actually in the entire thing.
The entire film is a fine example of what a good thriller should be, and especially one that has been adapted from a novel, something based on a true story. But, in reality when we think about the nature of the Zodiac and how he managed to avoid detection almost all his life, there are moments in the film where, if I were the Zodiac, I would find incredibly insulting to my intelligence. For example: The basement scene with the man who had Rick Marshall’s poster etc. That scene was somewhat a bit unoriginal, confusing and really predictable and boring. I know it’s supposed to heighten the tension, but in reality, after knowing the reality of the Zodiac case, I can neither believe that this was a good and well-made scene or that it actually happened at all. That is what I conclude with.