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Mar 7, 2007

Fletch's Film Review: Zodiac

Pirates of the Caribbean, 150. Superman Returns, 154. The Good Shepherd, 167. Casino Royale, 144. Miami Vice, 134.

Zodiac, 158.

What do the numbers mean? What do these films have in common?

The numbers are their running times. Their common thread is that they are allll toooo looooong, in dire need of better editing. Yet another commonality is that all of these films were disappointments that would have been much, much better films had they each been trimmed by 15-30 minutes (or more in some cases).

Zodiac is just the latest (and most tragic case). Whereas most of the films listed at the top are straight action/adventure pictures, Zodiac is more ambitious, with a prestige director (David Fincher), an all-star cast, and a true-life, fascinating story.

For his first film since 2002's Panic Room, Fincher set his sights on the still-unsolved case of The Zodiac killer, taking place in the Bay Area in the late 60s and early 70s. Though much has been written (and some TV films have been made), this is the highest-profile telling of the story.

And tell a good story Fincher does, all the while pulling out some interesting cinematic techniques along the way. Unfortunately, there's either too much story or not enough restraint, as the film wears out it's welcome around the two hour mark. Hurting the cause is the much-known status of the case; with no resolution in sight, the audience is left to wonder how it will end. As the timeline plays out in the film, from 1969 to 1970 to 1973 to 1979 to 1991, you just can't help but to worry how far it will go. Despite an ending that's as fitting as could be expected of an unsolved mystery, the journey to get there is exhausting.

Deserving of praise, however, is the accuracy of the set pieces and the deep cast. The movie feels as authentic as could be (granted, this comes from someone who was born in the mid-70s, so take it with a grain of salt) - the music, the newspaper office setting, and especially the more minor details, from the volume of characters that smoke to the old-school theater that some characters visit at one point. No detail is ignored, and it's obvious that authenticiy was of paramount importance.

Meanwhile, not to discount stars Jake Ghyllenhaal, Robert Downey, Jr., and Mark Ruffalo, but I'm not sure if I've ever seen a film so chock full of excellent, veteran character actors. The list is dizzying:
  • Brian Cox (credits too numerous to mention; shame on you if you don't know who he is)
  • Donal Logue (Grounded for Life, The Tao of Steve)
  • Elias Koteas (Crash (1996), Gattaca)
  • Anthony Edwards (ER, Top Gun)
  • Dermot Mulroney (My Best Friend's Wedding)
  • James LeGros (Point Break, Living in Oblivion)
  • Phillip Baker Hall (Hard Eight, Boogie Nights)
  • Adam Goldberg (Dazed and Confused, Saving Private Ryan)
  • Chloe Sevingy (Shattered Glass, Boys Don't Cry)
  • John Carroll Lynch (The Drew Carey Show, Fargo)
  • John Terry (Jack's father on Lost)
  • John Mahoney (Frasier) is even listed in the credits but must have been cut, as he's nowhere to be seen (yes, apparently, some scenes were cut).
An impressive list, especially considering Fincher's bad reputation amongst actors. Zodiac should make for a great submission to the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game, if nothing else...

Fletch's Film Rating:

"You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you."


6 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Zodiac"

zana said...

Who is Brian Cox?

Fletch said...

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0004051/

Rushmore, Troy, Braveheart, The Bourne Supremacy, X2, Adaptation, The 25th Hour...and on and on.

He's the Scottish Chris Cooper (kind of).

NFL Adam said...

I thought you meant the old NFL linebacker.

Abe said...

He's really good in the 25th Hour

WampaOne said...

I generally will agree with you that current movies today are long and could benefit from more editing. That said, I was not aware that Superman Returns was included among those. I thought it was a fantastic job, and a fitting tribute to the character, and the filmakers/actors of the 2 first Superman movies of the late 70´s, and I am not even a fan.

I don´t mind a long movie if it has content. I love the Extended versions of LOTR. Sadly, the new Star Wars movies could have benefited from the contrary, that is, less editing. The more Star Wars, the better!

Fletch said...

That said, I was not aware that Superman Returns was included among those. I thought it was a fantastic job, and a fitting tribute to the character, and the filmakers/actors of the 2 first Superman movies of the late 70´s.

Maybe it just turned me off since, instead of a tribute, I felt it was just a retread of the first two films. The plot was similar, the credits identical, and so on. So I was just waiting for it to end, and it was long...