Zodiac (2007, David Fincher)

Has David Fincher settled down? After a longer wait than ever between movies, Zodiac is almost a classical Hollywood film, not as showoffy as his others. Only showoffy bits were a Grand Theft Auto 2 perfect top-down cab follow, and some text-in-the-scenery which is just repeated from Fight Club’s Ikea catalog scene. Not that I’m complaining – he’s gone and made a great movie without tricky editing or twist endings or cameras flying through banisters.

We see most of the suspected Zodiac killings as they happen, and see the newspaper’s and police department’s reactions to the letters he sends, but since Zodiac was never caught, the movie doesn’t stop, barrelling forward in time all the way to the 90’s (starts in summer 1969). So it’s long, but it has a lot to cover and never drags.

Movie’s not “about” the Zodiac events so much as three characters surrounding it… newsman Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr, using both his physical comic acting and his drunken depraved acting in one meaty role), detective David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo, harder to track without the Eternal Sunshine beard) and cartoonist turned Zodiac obsessive Robert Graysmith (Donnie Darko, our central character if the movie has one).

Most impressive opening credits since A Prairie Home Companion. The three stars, then Anthony Edwards and Dermot Mulroney, whoever they are, plus Chloe Sevigny as Donnie’s wife, Brian Cox and Philip Baker Hall as guest experts, Elias Koteas and Donal Logue as cops, and Mr. Show’s John Ennis in one scene. I was too distracted by seeing Ennis in this movie to even realize who he was playing.

Based on the book by Robert Graysmith himself – probably the only Zodiac movie you’ll ever need. Funny, this coming out within a year of The Black Dahlia, a movie that starts with the facts, follows the same trajectory of the cops refusing to let the case go, working on it to the point of their lives falling apart, but then goes into fantasy territory with them finding a ludicrous resolution to the still-unsolved case. De Palma’s boasts a more inventive script and more inventive shooting style, but Fincher’s, sticking close to the facts and presenting them straightforward, is at least that movie’s match. I think most critics far preferred the Fincher to the De Palma, because they have no imagination or sense of fun.