No File Left Unturned [Zodiac] (093122)

23 May

First of all, I just have to get this out there – David Fincher is a genius! When I think of the film Zodiac, I really don’t know where to begin. There’s just too much to commend. The acting, the scenery, the plot and character development, the suspense, the humor, the sound editing and visuals… Damn, this really was a complete film. A few months ago, I remember watching a Nike commercial on YouTube. It was a part of their “Leave Nothing” American football campaign. In just one minute, David Fincher covered the entire lives of football players LaDainian Tomilson and Troy Polomalu from infancy to adulthood. In that single minute, Fincher covered the values and emotions of affection, determination, integrity, sportsmanship, and passion. It takes a lot of talent to do that. Imagine the kind of brilliance that he could display given a hundred and fifty-seven minutes. That’s exactly what Zodiac was: A hundred and fifty-seven minutes of unadulterated brilliance.

Fincher breathes life into what would otherwise be boring material. Yeah sure, murder mysteries make great sources of suspense, but the thing about Zodiac was that it wasn’t so much about an unsolved murder case as it was about one man’s obsession with it. The film had quite a number of murder and suspense scenes, but the main focus was really on Robert Graysmith’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) quest to satisfy his own nagging curiosity. At one point, his wife asks him, “When does it end? When will you finally give all this up?” The stoic Graysmith replies, “I need to know who he is. I need to stand there, I need to look him in the eye, and I need to know that it’s him.” When I heard him say that, I thought to myself, Shit… I know exactly what that’s like… His wife stares back at him with a look of submissive irritation. Shit… My girlfriend sometimes gives me that look…

What made Zodiac so entertaining to watch was Fincher’s portrayal of Graysmith’s character. I’ve come across dozens of similar books that are heavily based on research, case studies, reports, and articles. More often than not, they’re really boring. Having Graysmith as the unlikely amateur detective really put a positive spin to the entire film. I’m reading a book by Christopher Moore entitled “A Dirty Job.” The book’s main character is what Moore refers to as a “Beta Male” – soft spoken, reserved, and constantly underestimated and overtaken by their societal older brother, the Alpha Male. Moore jokingly quips that the only two reasons that women actually have sex with Beta Males is that they can be relied on for their fidelity and that they’ll probably survive longer than Alpha Males. There’s no doubt that Graysmith is a Beta Male. I mean, come on – he’s an obsessed political cartoonist running around acting like some kind of sleuth. (Plus, there is that thing with his wife). But hey, that’s what makes him such a likeable character. He’s the classic American underdog that you can’t help rooting for!

Fincher’s magic coupled with Gyllenhaal’s equally commendable acting make Zodiac an instant hit. Maybe it’s not the kind of film that everyone would enjoy, but it’s definitely one that you wouldn’t forget. Looking back on the film, most of the scenes I recall were of Graysmith frantically scurrying around San Fransisco and burying himself neck-deep in case files. That isn’t the kind of thing that would seem entertaining to watch, but like I said, Fincher’s a damn good magician. Although it doesn’t end as rosily as most may have hoped, Graysmith does walk away with quite a remarkable victory. However, this victory, this Beta Male triumph is not without a price.

Given the chance, most people would probably ask the real Graysmith if, after years of hardship, frustration, and backbreaking research; after standing there and looking Zodiac in the eye; and after knowing with as much certainty as he could possibly have that it was him… Was it worth it?

I can tell you that in all likelihood, for Graysmith, it was damn well worth it…

1 Comment

Posted by on 23 May 2011 in Uncategorized


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One response to “No File Left Unturned [Zodiac] (093122)

  1. Ena Escanan

    24 May 2011 at 11:43 pm

    I’m reading A Dirty Job too now (hilarious book noh?) and I agree with what you said about Graysmith being a Beta Male. He’s smart, quiet, lacks confidence, somewhat insecure but you cant help but love him.


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