I haven’t seen many David Fincher films. I often confuse him with David Lynch for no reason. I’ve seen Gone Girl and I’ve seen Seven, but I could stand to add more to the list.
Zodiac, my source (aka my roommate) says, is Guillermo del Toro’s favorite Fincher film. The story follows the infamous Zodiac murders from the 1970s through the eyes of Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhall), a cartoonist who would later write the famous book on the Zodiac killer, and Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) the lead investigator on the case. As the years go by with little progress to show for it, the case takes its toll on everyone involved. Except Robert, who can’t seem to get enough. He buries himself in the investigation, not sure where this intense curiosity comes from, but following it deeper into a downward spiral.
I see why this film has its merits. It is objectively a well-crafted movie. My problems with it are based on my personal preferences.
First of all, it’s so long. This is a mental commitment – not for the casual movie-goer. Two, someone in TV development once told me that journalists don’t make good protagonists for a show. Reason being, a journalist’s job is to report the story, not influence it themselves. That’s what it feels like watching Robert’s investigation unfold, like he – and the other characters – are always waiting for the Zodiac’s next move, which becomes a problem when his trail goes cold.
Also, it’s a bit dull following characters who are never really in danger. On some level, it lowers the stakes. Obviously Toschi’s career is on the line, but his life is never at risk. Robert too, has no stake in the murders, he simply wants to solve them himself.
Lastly, I don’t want to fault the film too much, but the ending feels a little forced. I understand the struggle: how do you end a movie about a case that was never resolved? Still, I think the last scene that essentially incriminated Allen as the killer isn’t the best choice. It’s just not the groundbreaking resolution I’m looking for. If anything, (and feel free to disagree) I would almost prefer a less concrete resolution, where we’re not sure who the killer could be.
I don’t think I’ll ever watch Zodiac again. It’s not my favorite Fincher film. But I do respect the movie, and the people who love it. There are scenes – just plain conversations in a bar – that held my full attention. There are moments where I can feel Robert’s thrill of pursuing a lead. And I appreciate the film’s ability to hold my attention even when we never see the killer. It just doesn’t align with my own tastes.