Bob and Justin's Mad Movie Blog

My name is Bob. My friend Justin and I are aspiring filmmakers and we have pretty similar tastes in movies. This will include our take on what's going on in film and television today as well as updating you on the status of our own work.

Monday, March 05, 2007

I'm back and so is David Fincher!

One of America's best and most exciting filmmakers returns with his first movie in five years. As much as I enjoyed 2002's "Panic Room" it was hardly a follow-up befitting of the man who had just come off of directing the earth-shattering masterpiece "Fight Club." Now in 2007, that follow-up has arrived. This isn't to say that "Zodiac" is a film in the same vein as "Fight Club," but it is every inch a modern masterpiece.
On July 4, 1969, a young couple in California is brutally attacked by a man with seemingly no motive. The boy survives and the girl does not. Four weeks later the first letter arrives at the San Francisco Chronicle, along with another message written in code from a man identifying himself as the Zodiac. As the months and years go by he claims more and more victims, taunting the police, the press, and the public all the while. For political cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo), and columnist Paul Avery (Robert Downey, Jr.) finding the identity of this man became an all-consuming obsession. This film is the story of that obsession. "Zodiac" is also a film about time. We see the grueling process that these men go through to uncover the truth, and by the end of the picture's 2 hour and 40 minute running time, we are able to see the toll it has taken on them. Despite its length and the fact that we never have a real resolution (the case is still open after all), "Zodiac" is a perfectly paced and enthralling film. Fincher keeps things moving and the screenplay by James Vanderbilt is filled with wonderful and believable dialogue. Nobody in this movie talks like they're in a Hollywood thriller. The leads are all excellent. Gyllenhaal (the man who would be Donnie Darko) gives what may be his finest performance. It's not always easy for an audience to understand a character's obsession, but we'll follow his Graysmith anywhere (and believe me, we do). The always likable Ruffalo is outstanding as well. We really want Toschi to put the handcuffs on Zodiac though we know he never will. And Downey, Jr. continues his hot streak ("Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," "A Scanner Darkly"). Most actors would have played Paul Avery too over the top. Downey fearlessly dances up the edge but never goes too far. There are also fine supporting performances from an array of talented actors, including Donal Logue ("The Knights of Prosperity"), Chloe Sevingny ("Shattered Glass"), Brian Cox (the original Hannibal Lecter in "Manhunter"), and Philip Baker Hall ("Magnolia").
"Zodiac" was also a joy to watch for the film geek in me (the reason I write all these reviews in the first place). Fincher uses the Paramount logo from 1969 to open the movie. Spanning 22 years, each part of "Zodiac" looks like a movie made from that time. It's done very subtly and it didn't even dawn on me until after it was over. One of the reasons I love David Fincher so much is that he is an incredibly stylistic director, yet his style never overwhelms or calls attention to itself, it's there to serve the story. He also never sensationalizes the true horror that the victims (a few of whom are still alive) went through. He genuinely respects those who were affected by the Zodiac.
I also absolutely must note that I had no idea while I was watching "Zodiac" that it was shot on digital. I have grumbled and ranted many times about the horrid look of digital films, particularly in movies like Michael Mann's "Miami Vice" and Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto." "Zodiac" really looks as though it were shot on film and if I hadn't stumbled across that information this morning on IMDB, I still wouldn't know. Fincher and cinematographer Harris Savides are to be congratulated for making a digital movie that looks amazing.
"Zodiac" is an incredible achievement from top to bottom. Get yourself to the theater now! 10/10

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