Best of the Decade #1: Zodiac
David Fincher is one of our generation’s greatest directors. He is probably the closest thing we have to a Kubrick or Hitchcock. While movies like Fight Club and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button seem to get all of the hype and attention, 2007’s Zodiac is his unquestioned masterpiece. Of course that is just my opinion, but so is everything else in this blog. Zodiac is my favorite movie of the decade.
The film is based on the true story of the unsolved murders committed by a man who called himself “The Zodiac.” The murders began in the late 1960’s and captured the attention of a cartoonist (Jake Gyllenhaal) working for the San Francisco Chronicle. Gyllenhaal is perfectly cast as the young man with a boy-like ambition to catch the killer. He essentially becomes an amateur detective as the killer continually sends notes and coded messages to the newspaper’s office. Mark Ruffalo is fantastic as a detective on the case, as is Robert Downey Jr. as a burned out reporter for the Chronicle.
The film is over two and a half hours long, but this time goes by extremely briskly and I never wanted it to end. All of the murders take place within the first hour but Fincher does a great job of slowly revealing the evidence and details so that the movie stays exciting and suspenseful throughout. He has a truly great sense of pacing. The Zodiac’s presence is always felt even though the killer and the suspects are rarely on screen.
Fincher’s lighting in the movie is impeccable. The film’s look is polished and modern, yet still grainy enough to bring the viewer back to the era in which the story takes place.
Zodiac is a movie I appreciate more and more with each viewing. You would think that a movie about an unsolved murder might be somewhat unsatisfying to sit through. We obviously never get to see the “good guys” catch the villain since this this didn’t take place in real life. However, this movie is completely engaging throughout and the events that take place in the final scenes are some of the most gratifying exchanges imaginable.
It still amazes me that Zodiac was so criminally ignored by Oscar voters. The bevy of nominations for Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button seemed to serve as a “make up” for completely overlooking his previous movie. Sometimes movies get overlooked by the Academy, yet continue to make an impact for decades to come. Look at Citizen Kane for example. It only won one Oscar (for its screenplay), but it is now considered to be one of the greatest movies of all time and is shown and studied in virtually every college film class. I have a feeling Zodiac will be one of these movies.