Monday, March 05, 2007

ZODIAC: A New Film Babble Blog Favorite

“No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough.” - Roger Ebert 

I fully agree with Mr. Ebert. Many are grumbling about the length and density of the movie in question below but you won't find any grumbling here:

ZODIAC (Dir. David Fincher, 2007) 

A murderer clothed in darkness exterminating make-out parking or picnicking young couples, police and press continuously taunted by letters and cards sent by a serial killer at large, and an obsession with solving a perplexing nightmare of a mystery that derails the lives and careers of investigators and reporters and alienates the ones closest to them, these are all thriller genre elements that have arguably been done to death before, sure. 

But David Fincher’s sixth film ZODIAC, beautifully builds upon those frameworks with excruciating attention to detail and a sense of personal purpose that can be felt long after the film is over. The film is based upon the infamous string of Northern Californian murders in the late '60s and early '70s by a man who identified himself as Zodiac and who was never caught.

Our protagonist and guide through this is Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhall) a ex-Eagle Scout turned San Fransisco Chronicle editorial cartoonist who while not assigned to the story immerses himself in the chilling codes and cryptic pronouncements that his paper and the authorities receive from the Zodiac. 

The Inspectors on the case David Toshi (Mark Ruffalo) and William Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) follow every possible lead, dissect every single angle, and interview every single suspect but still come up severely short on the crucial conclusive evidence needed. As time goes on with a long silence by the Zodiac – the trail grows cold leaving our heroes spiritually stumped and forever floored by the lack of closure. 

With few of the stylistic flashy touches of Fincher’s previous work (SE7EN, THE GAME, FIGHT CLUB, PANIC ROOM) ZODIAC is a meticulously mesmerizing masterpiece. Despite it’s over 2 and half hour running time not a scene is wasted and it’s admirable that '70s period piece cliches aren’t exploited, they're convincingly inhabited. 

Couldn’t be any better cast as joining the principles are Robert Downey Jr, Brian Cox, Chloë Sevigny, Phillip Baker Hall, Dermot Mulroney, and John Carroll Lynch, all playing the right notes with even incidental characters given sharp memorable turns by reliable bit-players (Donal Logue, Charles Fleisher, Ione Skye *, John Ennis, Adam Goldberg). 

Eerily effective and extremely absorbing with its “histories of ages past” and “unenlightened shadows cast” as Donovan's * "Hurdy Gurdy Man" (the song that book-ends the film) playfully but darkly suggests, ZODIAC deserves the oft quoted critic line this season never lives without: it’s truly the first great movie of the year. 

* Donovan has both a song and a daughter in this film. Good for him.

More later...

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