Directed by David Fincher
With this new entry to my top 100 we take a turn from the simple innocence of believing in ourselves (Kung Fu Panda), to the grey and confused world of David Fincher’s Zodiac. The film roughly follows the lives of the men who attempt to track down and bring to justice the Zodiac killer of San Francisco. For a quick read on the real facts of the Zodiac case here is a link to the Wikipedia site.
Zodiac is a meticulous and methodical movie that spans several years and several main characters. It begins with the initial killings of the serial killer known as the Zodiac and then evolves into a systematic procedural on the attempts to catch him. Fincher absolutely nails the nuts and bolts of this film, as it is a real pleasure to watch this case unfold and reveal layer after layer of detail.
It’s a credit to Fincher that the film always remains engaging, suspenseful, and interesting. The killings themselves are suitably tough to watch as well as unnerving and the manhunt to follow is equally riveting. The technical aspects are as good here as they are in any other film shot for the 70s, especially Harry Savides’ cinematography that perfectly conveys the heavy moral darkness of the film.
While the film works perfectly well as a methodical crime story, we all know in real life that the Zodiac killer was never found. This of course poses some severe problems for anyone trying to make a film because there is no closure. Who was it? Fincher’s creative answer is to not make the goal of the film the capture of the killer, but to make it about the obsession that paralyzed the lives of the men who sought for the killer.
It’s this direction that truly impacted me in watching this film. By the end of the film, Zodiac so wonderfully conveys man’s search for justice and meaning in a world of moral confusion, that is was undeniably relatable. What happens to a man when the quest for justice is never completed? How does one find balance and meaning to a life’s quest that goes unfulfilled? Can a man ever find peace, when such things go unfulfilled?
It’s not an easy answer, but Zodiac attempts to answer this question (which I won’t spoil here), and it’s not only satisfactory, but it’s revelatory. It’s an answer that has grown on me and has taught me patience and peace with the particular obsessions of my life. For that, this is a film I can’t live without.
Other Essentials: All of the outstanding performances, props to any film featuring Brian Cox in a supporting role, the outstanding soundtrack