This movie covers a period of over 30 years and the difficult quest to identify Zodiac, a serial killer. Early on in the film, the Lynchian (Blue Velvet) device of contrasting violence with gentle music erupts with Donovan's hippie ballad, Hurdy Gurdy Man. Only this Hurdy Gurdy man isn't singing songs of love. He is shooting, stabbing, playing catch-me-if-you can, and generally wearing the police down.

The lack of a logical progression towards solving the crimes evokes a reality that the cinematography is also aiming at, sepia hues suggesting noir of an indeterminate era. Its claim to be based on actual case files rings reasonably true. There are echoes of Director David Fincher's earlier work, Se7en, but without the luridness. The central character, Robert Graysmith, is based on a real person who wrote a number of books about the real serial killer.

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Graysmith (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) is a cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle. His hobby is solving puzzles. Zodiac, who sends cryptic clues to the newspapers, is his dream come true. Following the trail over more years than the police have patience for, Graysmith labours unrelentingly to find the identity of the killer.

Gyllenhall is a strength and weakness. He has screen charisma, but maybe not enough to carry the whole movie. His character lacks the depth or maturity displayed by Mark Ruffalo as the weary Colombo-esque cop or the top lawyer played by Brian Cox. The realism of the film is questioned by his home-boy appeal, even if we warm to it.

Occasional special effects (such as the speeded up construction of a building) also jar. The symbolism seems too weak. Fans of double meanings may work many psychological references into the interplay of terrorizer and terrorized, but the film is overly long. I found myself eventually not really caring who the killer was. Only two or three scenes (a murder, a woman driving with her baby, and Graysmith coming out of the rain into a uncannily threatening house to dig up clues) have any tension. The rest left me less than gripped. Endless details, false leads, tenuous clues and waffling plot.

"Nobody has more Zodiac crap than you do," exclaims Graysmith's long-suffering partner. And it seems the producers spared no expense cramming every drop of it into the film.

Reviewed on: 03 Jun 2007
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Zodiac packshot
A cop, a reporter and a cartoonist become obsessed with a serial killer in 1970s San Francisco.
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Read more Zodiac reviews:

Jennie Kermode ****1/2
Martin Gray ***
Stephen Carty ***

Director: David Fincher

Writer: James Vanderbilt, based on the book by Robert Graysmith

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Robert Downey Jr., Brian Cox, John Carroll Lynch, Richmond Arquette, Bob Stephenson, John Lacy, Chloë Sevigny, Ed Setrakian

Year: 2007

Runtime: 158 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: USA


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