directed by David Fincher
USA 2007

 

Director David Fincher made his mark on Hollywood with 1995’s Se7en, a grim thriller about a serial killer. Fincher used a very dark, muted palette for Se7en (and Alien3), and he continued to hone black-on-black cinematography with The Game, Fight Club, and Panic Room to the point where, while everything looked stylish, I sometimes couldn’t see what was happening. Mercifully, Fincher reined in his predilection for the “no lighting at all” scheme with 2007’s Zodiac.

Zodiac returns to the serial-killer territory mined by Se7en, though this one is based on a real-life murderer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area during the 1960s and 1970s. The movie’s first half follows at least seven policemen and newspaper employees as they attempt to track down the Zodiac, whose killings are not necessarily bizarre but whose letters to area newspapers create an appreciable sense of panic among the public. As the leads grow cold, fewer and fewer people continue to track the Zodiac until only one--cartoonist Robert Graysmith (played by Jake Gyllenhaal)--begins writing a book about the entire ordeal. Graysmith gets closer to discovering the Zodiac’s real identity than anyone else, but since he’s not a law-enforcement officer, his options are limited.

The biggest surprise for me was the way that Fincher shot and edited Zodiac as if it had been made during the 1960s/1970s, beginning with the use of vintage studio logos from Paramount and Warner. Most shots last for several seconds (approaching 10) rather than less than 2, thereby distinguishing the movie from the jackhammer experiences that you get with most studio productions today. Colors are muted the way that film stock from 30-40 years ago would be (much like how Munich emulated the feel of a 1970s’ thriller).

Some set pieces demonstrate Fincher’s genuine skill as a moviemaker. In one sequence, Graysmith visits the home of a man who plays the organ in a movie theatre that plays silent films. This sequence becomes genuinely terrifying as Graysmith slowly concludes that the organist may actually be the Zodiac. I watched most of the movie reclined comfortably on sitting pillows, but as this sequence unfolded, I sat up straight prepared to jump with a startle.

I really enjoyed the leisurely pacing, which allows viewers to become familiar with the interior psychology of the many lead characters. In fact, this is the first American movie in a long time that made me feel as if I inhabited the mise-en-scene along with the people on the screen. I felt the same frustrations and tensions on display.

Unfortunately, the movie is also very, very long. A lot of scenes are meant to show us how futile the investigative work was. However, we don’t need to be reminded every five minutes that the policemen and the journalists only have dead ends on their hands. In this instance, the pacing and the length are two separate matters. The leisurely pacing is welcome, but the length is not.

Its length is Zodiac’s greatest weakness, and the running time really hurts the movie. What could’ve been a return to form for David Fincher feels like a rough cut. Unless Fincher trims his movie the way that Peter Weir did to Picnic at Hanging Rock for his director’s cut, I don’t see how the forthcoming director’s cut of Zodiac--with new footage--can be an improvement.

Yunda Eddie Feng

Poster

Theatrical Release: 2 March 2007

Reviews    More Reviews  DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Paramount - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Yunda Eddie Feng for the Review!

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Distribution

Paramount

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 157 min
Video

2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.15 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French
Subtitles Optional English and Spanish
Features Release Information:
Studio: Paramount

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1

Edition Details:
• previews for other releases

DVD Release Date: 24 July 2007
Keepcase

Chapters:27

 

 

Comments:

Video:
While muted, the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image is not as oppressively dark as Fight Club or Panic Room. This is a very clean transfer, though it’s a bit soft in some places. The warm amber lighting in some of the settings probably contributed to the softness. Also, Fincher shot the movie to resemble a 1960s/1970s picture, so the sharpness is probably intentional.

Nevertheless, I want to point out that a flyover of the Port of San Francisco at the beginning of the movie looks like a CGI creation. It looks fake and terrible. Even if the moviemakers actually flew over the Port of San Francisco, the shot still looks like fake, terrible, plastic CGI nonsense.

Audio:
The Dolby Digital 5.1 English track is rather dialogue-heavy due to the movie’s emphasis on police-procedural work. Therefore, this is a very quiet audio experience, though the few gunshots in the movie are loudly effective. The movie features several jaunty music cues, though these are spread across the front rather than to the rears. Indeed, for the most part, the rears are rather quiet.

The creative team must’ve paid a great deal of attention the sound design (par for the course with Fincher). The opening studio logos are accompanied by snaps, cracks, and pops, mirroring the condition of the footage.

You can watch the movie with a DD 5.1 French dub. Optional English and Spanish subtitles as well as optional English closed captions support the audio.

Extras:
The only extras are previews for other Paramount offerings, including an announcement of a two-disc special edition director’s cut of Zodiac to be released in 2008.

 - Yunda Eddie Feng

 



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Distribution

Paramount

Region 1 - NTSC




 

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