Zodiac was a crime-thriller that stayed true to its genre.
Very often I find myself watching films similar to this one. Detectives, murder
suspects, clues and theories, then at the very end a conviction. An easily
predicted and foreseen conviction. Directors often use this technique where
they make it really, really obvious that they want you to believe that this person
is the killer. Ideally people should be “shocked” to find out that it was
actually the guy that the clues don’t point to.
In Zodiac, the film is very realistic (it is after all,
based on a true story). Some clues point to Allen while some contradict his
involvement and point to other possible suspects. Also, the case lasts for many
years just like in real life where justice is often delayed due to lack of
evidence, reasonable doubt and alibis, most of them remaining unsolved to this
very day. Unfortunately, circumstantial evidence is not sufficient proof of
In my opinion the movie is very accurate in portraying the often
time-consuming and meticulous work of an investigator/detective. Graysmith’s
relationship with his family gradually deteriorates with his constant attention
on solving the mystery. Meanwhile, Avery turns to alcoholism after becoming
paranoid and Toschi is demoted. Frustration is at an all time high because of
the killer’s ciphers and messages that aim to ridicule the police. That could
possibly be one of the most irritating feelings in the world, knowing that you
were wronged by someone but powerless to retaliate because you don’t know who
that someone is.
Because the story is told from the eyes and ears of the reporters
and policemen hunting the suspects, we are never given a specific motive for
the killings, only assumptions. This is critical in adding tension to the story
and giving it that film noir vibe. We are left to our own imagination to deduce
the identity, motive and any discernable pattern from the killings.
I was quite happy with the casting they did on Zodiac. Each
actor seems to fit the character he/she is playing. Robert Downey Jr. plays an
arrogant prick who soon turns into an alcoholic (what a coincidence). Jake Gyllenhaal
is always the perfect poster boy for the typical novice (like in Jarhead). Mark
Ruffalo the hard-nosed but generally friendly professional (Shutter Island) and
finally John Carroll Lynch who just looks plain creepy for some reason.
I enjoyed the ending of the film because it provides a
little bit of closure but still leaves doubt over the identity of the Zodiac
Killer. This allows us to finish watching the movie but still thinking about it
long after the credits have rolled. What perplexes me though is how the hard
criminal evidence exonerating Allen could have been easily fabricated. The
handwriting may have been one of his victims or an accomplice forced to write
it on his behalf. The same can be said for the DNA sampling which reveal absolutely
nothing because the letters could have come in contact with anyone. Also, why
did it have to take 14 years for the original surviving victim (the one from
the beginning) to identify Allen as the real killer? Shouldn’t they have asked
interviewed him at the exact moment that he recovered and Allen became the
prime suspect? Just a few things to think about.