Sunday, July 1, 2007
First of all I love the period details in this film--the brown coloured sets, the newsroom filled with rows of desks with typewriters, Chloe Sevigny's flower-girl hairstyle, the chance to see Jake Gyllenhaal in a Brokeback style checkered shirt, but Zodiac's whole is less than the sum of its parts. It's basically about a guy who's obsessed with a serial killer, plays amateur sleuth and digs up so-called evidence about the case, then writes a book about it. That's it. He's never in any kind of danger (unless you count heavy-breathing prank calls), he doesn't under go any changes throughout the film, nor do we understand why he's so interested in the case. It's almost as if David Fincher, after making his name with the ground-breaking Seven, decides to do an anti-serial killer film twelve years later.
It's not that the film is boring or unwatchable--far from it. Every scene is meticulously crafted and full of suspense. Yet none of it adds up to much, for the film doesn't go anywhere. We already know who the alleged killer is half way through the film. The rest of the film consists of various false leads and red herrings as the Gyllenhaal character tries to prove his case.
The irony is after seeing him go through all that trouble, the case doesn't seem all that convincing. If the killer really was Leigh, then why did the police fail to uncover a single piece of evidence after searching through his trailer? In real life the police actually subject Leigh to a 10 hour polygraph test, and he passed it. So no handwriting match, no fingerprint match, passed polygraph--yet the film still insists he's the killer! Before the final credits, there's also a title that says a DNA test performed shortly before his death failed to implicate Leigh!
To make up for the lack of story, Fincher had to resort to hackneyed suspense movie tricks to keep us interested, like the scene where Gyllenhaal goes to a suspect's house and hears creaking noises above, but it turns out to be nothing, or he is alone in the house and a shadow passes by the door--cue scary music, and--his wife enters. In real life the Gyllenhaal character spent years digging up 'evidence' and got two bestsellers out of it, but the audience has to spend 153 minutes on this film and all we get are cheap thrills.