WEIRDLAND: An enthusiastic "Zodiac" review

Sunday, February 18, 2007

An enthusiastic "Zodiac" review

"David Fincher's Zodiac (Paramount, 3.2) is a knockout. I felt pleasantly drugged (like I'd taken an art-film quaalude) after seeing it. It's my idea of entertaining and then some -- it's absorbing, sharp, edge-of- the-seat stuff -- although it's not really "entertainment." Not in a hoi polloi, whoo-whoo, pass-the-popcorn sense. Which is why certain voices on the Paramount publicity team have been skittish about showing it.

What it is, most definitely, is a commercial art film of the highest order -- an existential police procedural about one of the most notorious "cold" investigations in U.S. history.

Zodiac is based on two best-sellers by Robert Graysmith, "Zodiac" and "Zodiac Unmasked: The Identity of America's Most Elusive Serial Killer Revealed," which are first-hand accounts about the hunt for the Zodiac killer who terrified the San Francisco area in 1968 and '69.

Is there such a thing as being too determined to stop evil? At what point do you ease up and say, "I've done all I can." Is it always essential to finish what you've started? Should never-say-die always be the motto, even at great personal cost?

The victims, in other words, aren't just the ones who get shot or stabbed or otherwise killed.

Zodiac isn't just about sleuthing. Deep down I think it's a metaphor piece about obsessions wherever you find them, and how the never-quit theme applies to heavily-driven creative types (novelists, painters, architects, musicians) as much as cops or cartoonists or stamp collectors or baseball-card traders.

It's the most masterly film of Fincher's career. He doesn't seem to be pushing or selling or manipulating anything here -- he's just got a good grip on the material, and is letting it play itself out according to its own rhyme.

All I know is that I couldn't get enough of it -- it ticks like a metronome and sucks you in without really delivering anything stand-out spectacular in the way of mind-blowing finales, pull-out-the-stops performances (which isn't to take anything away from the actors, who are damn near perfect) or shocking plot turns. It scores primarily by just being a great piece of filmmaking.

A critic friend is calling Zodiac's 3.2.07 release "the most ridiculous [call] for a major Hollywood film that I've ever observed -- certainly in our era where, in general, the first four or so months of the year are a dumping ground for crap."

I think that's the key to the film's extraordinary intelligence, and why Fincher jettisons nearly every stylistic device and post-modern inclination he's previously loved (I'm thinking especially of Fight Club, of course, but also Se7en, which this film will be endlessly compared and contrasted to...)

One small beef: Graysmith is a very strongly written guy with a lot of struggle and frustration inside -- the pressure on him just builds and builds. But in a script I read last year, Graysmith had a great "release" scene at the end when he delivers a spellbinding 12-page oratory that ties up all the loose ends about who and what Zodiac is and was. (I was reminded of Simon Oakland's this-is-what-actually- happened speech at the end of Psycho.)

This scene acted as a kind of climax, but Fincher hasn't used it. The finale -- the film itself -- would have been stronger if he had." -by Jeffrey Wells.

Read the full review in

And a new "Zodiac" Video clip: ZODIAC - BOAR HOUSE,

courtesy by Jake Watch.

1 comment :

gr77 said...

i expect many good reviews for "Zodiac".Maybe not as great as this one, but I beleive Fincher is incapable of doing a bad film,at worst it'll be just good.