‘This story is based on true events’, can you hear that collective sigh right now? I can’t really think of a lot of movies that benefitted from that statement. Horrormovies use it all the time and besides from ‘The Blair Witch Project’ I don’t think that it actually led to anything great.
But there’s always that exception to the rule, and the 2007 David Fincher directed ‘Zodiac’ is it.
Based on the series of books from Robert Graysmith who investigated the murders of the Zodiac for roughly 25 years (and continues to do so today) we follow him (played by a great Jake Gyllenhaal) on his quest to find out who is responsible for killing numerous young couples in and around the San Francisco bay area.
By no means is this the ‘Silence of the Lambs’ style suspense you’d be forgiven to expect. It plays more like a slowburn thriller and every scare comes from your own investment into the story of the zodiac.
Since it’s based on true events, one simple search string on google gives us the details. San Francisco, 1969, three papers receive a written letter from a mysterious murderer, claiming to know details about a murder that took place a few days before, accompanied by a mysterious code that he demands to be printed into the papers to prevent another killing spree.
From there on out, we follow Robert Graysmith, who is an cartoonist for one of the three papers (The San Francisco Herald) as he gets more and more sucked into the mystery of finding out who it is.
The paper gives the assignment to one of his best reporters called Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) who gets impressed by the skills of Robert in decyphering the codes and clues. They both trail along in the investigation being led by inspector David Toschi (a brilliant Mark Ruffalo) and even though it’s got a relatively long running time considering the lack of action (almost 3 hours) you can’t help but get sucked into the whole mystery.
The murderer was never caught and even though evidence does point out a clear suspect, it’s never conclusive, and thus the movie can’t be as well.
Sadly overlooked in the awards season, Zodiac stands as one of the finest efforts of Fincher. A gray San Francisco, great performances and one truely terrifying scene near the end of the movie makes this a must watch. It might not be to everyone’s taste, but the craftsmanship as well as the great true to life story renders it just as important as a piece of cinematic history like ‘Silence of the Lambs’ before it.
There’s a rainy day coming, there always is, and take that day to pop in ‘Zodiac’.
You won’t be dissapointed.