Review of “Zodiac” by David Fincher

Review of "Zodiac" directed by David Fincher, written by James Vanderbilt
rating ****

Officially the murders in the late 60s and early 70s attributed to the Zodiac killer are unsolved. This film, based on the book by the same name by Robert Graysmith, puts forth a good case for identifying the best suspect.

From an entertainment standpoint, this film does an excellent job of keeping the suspense going from start to finish. The murders are gruesome but shot with restraint. The killings are portrayed in chronological order with factual information regarding time and place superimposed on the screen. This gives the film some level of authenticity.

There are basically three storylines: the official police investigation, the newspaper’s reporting of the crimes and subsequent printing of letters from the killer, and Robert Graysmith fascination with the case. Since the film is based on Graysmith’s book, his viewpoint is the predominant one.

All leads seem to point to one suspect. When the police finally gather enough circumstantial evidence to get a search warrant, the suspect is cleared, mostly on the basis of a hand writing analysis and a lack of physical evidence. The trail runs cold. The case is kept alive through the efforts of Robert Graysmith.

The last thirty minutes of the movie are a little confusing as several additional suspects are introduced and then forgotten, without fully explaining why. The most convincing scene is when Robert Graysmith puts forth a time line of the prime suspect’s whereabouts in connection with the killings, phone calls, and letters.

Despite the the evidence, in the end there is nothing to tie the prime suspect to the killings. DNA evidence done on a letter from the actual Zodiac killer does not match the suspect.

Little effort was put into giving much historical context. The soundtrack is almost non existent, as if they decided to use imitation music rather than pay royalties for popular songs of the time period. The DVD is sorely lacking: no commentary, nothing on the real Zodiac case.

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