Favorite Film Friday: Zodiac

Zodiac traces the true story of the Zodiac Killer, a man who plagued the streets of Northern California and taunted police and journalists through letters, cyphers, and phone calls in the 1960s and early 1970s.

As you may well know, I really like biopics. Slapping based on a true story will probably draw me into watching just about anything that rolls around. Even better than a biopic is a true crime thriller. I love true crime documentaries, but I really love true crime dramatic films. The Zodiac Killer is one of the greatest unsolved murder mysteries in American history. Unless you believe it’s been Ted Cruz all along. Then mystery solved. But not only did the real Zodiac go on a rampage, he taunted police with haunting letters and threats, sending the whole state on high alert. This film follows the police investigation (Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards) and the reporters (Robert Downey Jr. and Jake Gyllenhaal) who pursued him.

My favorite thing that this movie did was cast different men to play the different sightings of the Zodiac Killer. Since the murderer was never identified, I like how they didn’t push you to any conclusion. If they were all the same guy it would lead you to believe that they were asserting that it was Arthur Leigh Allen (John Carroll Lynch), the prime suspect that came to pass through the investigation. I always thought that was neat tactic that I had never seen used before. Although the plot does hint strongly that Leigh Allen was the Zodiac, it has enough twists in turns that constantly leave the viewer unsure.

The main focus of the plot ends up leaning to Jake Gyllenhaal’s character Robert Graysmith, who eventually wrote a book detailing the investigation after he became involved during his time at the San Francisco Chronicle. Gyllenhaal gives a great performance as the mild mannered cartoonist who grows obsessed with the unsolved mystery of the infamous serial killer. He portrays the mania he exhibits as he searches for the truth so well and you are pulled into the same mania and eventual frustration that comes from lack of closure.

I would say the only problem with this movie is that it’s two and a half hours. It’s not uninteresting or slow at all, but parts of the story could have easily been shortened or left out. Still, I love this movie. I wish Robert Downey Jr. had a more active role, mostly because I find him a likeable and energetic onscreen presence, but he plays his role extremely well with what screen time he has. Mark Ruffalo is also great as the homicide detective investigating the murders, and the film really captures the chaos that this mysterious killer caused an entire area of California. With serious threats he never carried out, and murders that he did, the Zodiac Killer caused mainstream panic and terrorized the community for years. This film is well developed, well acted, and tells a complicated story in such a visually breathtaking and intense way.

Amy’s Recommendation: 9/10

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