By Gus Bode

Directed by David Fincher Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Edwards, Chloe Sevigny Run time 160 minutes Rated R Rating 3 gus heads

One of the last messages from the Zodiac killer to the San Francisco police stated, “I am waiting for a good movie about me” and that day has arrived with “Zodiac.”

The film doesn’t end with Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in a box a la “Se7en,” but director David Fincher’s latest serial killer drama delivers all the thrills and suspense one might expect from such lurid subject matter, even if the film (and the real-life murder case) has no real resolution.


Not content to be mere hack-and-slash carnage, “Zodiac” is as much a study of obsession as it is an examination of the Zodiac killer who claimed at least five victims between 1969 and 1978. The film isn’t a traditional Hollywood thrill ride, but “Zodiac” thrives on mystery, suspense and the cat-and-mouse chase between an elusive killer, the San Francisco police department and a pair of journalists working to piece the complex case together.

Based on the 1986 “true crime” book by Robert Graysmith, “Zodiac” tells the story of one of the greatest unsolved murder cases in American history. Throughout the film’s newly two-and-a-half hour running time, the story of the Zodiac killer is told through the eyes of those bent on solving the case.

Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a cartoonist for a San Francisco newspaper who becomes fascinated with the case. Helping Graysmith at the newspaper is Paul Avery (Robert Downey), a crime reporter with a penchant for self-destruction.

The police department in represented in via detectives Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and Bill Armstrong (Anthony Edwards), the former of which served as the basis for Dirty Harry.

“Zodiac” zigs and zags in story structure while staging reenactments of each murder based on witness descriptions and various clues. As the film progresses, the plot switches from Toschi and Armstrong to the tireless work performed by the persistent Graysmith.

“Zodiac” contains few of the stylistic flourishes and artful camera movement of previous Fincher films such as “Fight Club” and “Panic Room,” but the story doesn’t warrant, or need, such theatrics. Instead, the director pieces together the elaborate case and its various clues with striking precision and attention to detail. For a case that remains unsolved, Fincher goes to great lengths to illustrate the public fear during the 1960s and 1970s while elaborating on a series of suspects and dead end leads.

Those looking for a “Se7en” rehash will surely be disappointed with the methodical pacing and elaborate character studies of “Zodiac,” but the patient will be rewarded with a fascinating study in criminology and mystery.