First off, I am not here to review Zodiac so much as to talk about it. Be warned. There are spoilers.
I read an early review of Zodiac which compared it to a Sidney Lumet or Alan J. Pakula film in the way that it covered its content so thoroughly.
This couldn't be more accurate a statement and it is with these glasses that I viewed Zodiac. Not as a new movie per se, but more of a return to the way movies were once made. It is a real tribute to the power that director David Fincher has that he was able to make this movie the way he did. No single detail or historical fact is glossed over for fear that it will be confusing or boring. You are taken through every single lead, clue and hint spanning over 30 years.
So back to those Lumet/Pakula glasses I was wearing. This movie made me think of two movies by these directors. Prince Of The City and All The President's Men. Both films dug deep into their subject matter and covered a good chunk of time. They were almost documentary-like in the way they told the story because there is so much history to follow. Too much drama in these cases causes the viewer to doubt the truth. What these two films do is take the name out of the film. Prince Of The City was a Lumet film because it had his name attached and because it was a gritty cop drama, but other than that he let the history do the storytelling. And All The Presidents Men doesn't get too wrapped up in that it has two of the best actors of the time starring in it. Even Goodfellas, while based on a factual story, has Scorsese's techniques all over it. There are no Fincher moments in this movie. Unlike what Stone did with JFK, this is not Fincher's interpretation of the Zodiac killer. This is Fincher telling a story about the Zodiac killer. Not too glossy or gritty and it is Fincher's restraint that makes this movie so good and shows how he has matured as a director.
It is impossible for me to talk about Zodiac and not compare it directly with All The Presidents Men. Both are a study of an obsession with finding the truth. There is no better scene than when Redford tracks the beginnings of the Watergate scandal with a series of phone calls. As he talks on the phone, he makes frantic scribblings, connecting names and ideas. This is such a simple scene, but such a masterful one. Bravo to Pakula and Goldman for capturing it because it is in the chase that the excitement lies and it doesn't always have to be in a car barrelling down the road at 100 mph. Zodiac is filled with these chase scenes, although I would say not one is as strong as the aforementioned, and it is when Robert (Jake Gyllenhaal) takes center stage with the chase that this movie is at it's most interesting.
I have never seen a movie with as large a narrative thread as Zodiac. One that covers so much time and so many characters telling the same story. At first it seems a Robert Downey Jr. movie and then a Downey/Gyllenhall movie. Then a Ruffalo/Edwards movie. Then a Gyllenhall movie again.
Zodiac is not only an excellent movie, it is a coup for movie making in general. A throwback to when movies were about good scripts, good performances and good storytelling. Well done Mr. Fincher.