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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Terror By The Bay

Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and Jennings (Adam Goldberg) discuss another lead. Image courtesy of Paramount
Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and Jennings (Adam Goldberg) discuss another lead. Image courtesy of Paramount

If you enjoy the uncertainty and obscurity that comes with reading your horoscope or you constantly do the crypto-quotes in the daily newspaper, Zodiac is a film for you. Directed by David Fincher, best known for his other psychological thriller Se7en and the ever-popular Fight Club, Zodiac has the perfect combination of suspense, mystery, and a little blood to add to the intensity of the film.

With an all-star cast and even stronger direction, it’s the story line of Zodiac that truly makes it what is: a psychological thriller that sucks you in from the moment the opening credits begin to roll. Based on true-to-life events, Zodiac delves into the still-unsolved case of one of the most notorious serial killers in history, the self-proclaimed “Zodiac Killer.” Based on the true crime novel of the same name written by Zodiac-obsessed Robert Graysmith, the movie follows the painstaking journey of the California police departments, the newspaper circuits, and all of America to solve the mystery of the Zodiac Killer. The Zodiac Killer gripped the nation with fear when he claimed the lives of many people in the San Francisco Bay Area beginning in 1969. The madman then sent ciphers to several area newspapers that contained characters from a number of ancient and cosmic codes, leaving them to be practically unsolvable. Among these newspapers was the “San Francisco Chronicle.”

Enter: “Chronicle” amateur cartoonist Robert Graysmith, played by Jake Gyllenhall. When Graysmith gets wind that the serial killer responsible for a killing on July 4, 1969 in Vallejo County has sent a cipher to the newspaper, he attempts to crack the code. All in the news office, especially the hotshot, self-interested journalist Paul Avery, played by Robert Downey Jr, casts off Graysmith, an avid puzzle-solver. The Zodiac Killer continues to kill, and the letters to the editor continue to flood the offices of area newspapers, as well as the San Francisco Police Department. Ambitious and intuitive Homicide Inspector of the SFPD David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and his low key, scrupulous partner William Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) are put in charge of the Zodiac case. With the Zodiac files growing at a rapid pace, and the body count growing at an even faster rate, conflict often arises between Avery, who is looking to get a story and be the first to break the news, and Toschi, who is trying to do his job and cure the Zodiac-induced headaches that follow every new lead of the case. All the while, Graysmith becomes more and more engulfed in trying to discover exactly who the Zodiac killer is, eventually gaining, and then losing, some respect with his superiors at the paper and the SFPD.

Zodiac proves to be an edge-of-your-seat, psychological trip that gives a little lead and offers a possible suspect for the viewer to mark responsible for the killings, and then gives fine details as to why they do not fit the description and let the would-be killers out of police custody. The case of the Zodiac Killer still has not been solved to this day, and since as recently as 2000, more evidence has surfaced and more suspects have been called into question and released.

While many movies rely on actors to bring the script and plot to life, it seems that in the case of Zodiac, it is the plot and storyline that bring the characters to life. We see every side of the characters, from compassion, to fear to frustration to downright defeat. Still, through all of the emotions and defeats, Graysmith continues to research the case and develop more hypotheses and prospects of the killer’s identity.

Although the film runs at a lengthy two hours and 40 minutes, by the end of the film, you will be left wanting more. More of Gyllenhall’s obsessive nerdiness. More of Downey’s arrogance and sneakiness. More of Ruffalo’s hard-nosed investigative techniques. Zodiac is an award-worthy film that is like an extended episode of “CSI” or “Forensic Files.” The only difference is, we don’t know who-done-it. Still, even without resolution, Zodiac has the rawness that many thrillers today are lacking. It will keep you on the edge of your seat and make you think twice before reading your daily zodiac forecast.

Zodiac is currently playing suburban and other local theaters.