This weekend I went to Chelmsford Odeon to see Zodiac. I was expecting a reasonably fast paced action thriller, but it really isn’t one of those! This film is based on a true story spanning a time scale from 1968 to 1991 and follows the hunt for the Zodiac Killer in the San Francisco region of California.
It details the frustrations that the police faced at the time and the problems brought about by a lack of communication infrastructure – information was generally posted (some places still didn’t have fax machines back then, remember) and often details were overlooked in the sheer weight of paper and high word counts.
The film depicts the characters supremely well and shows the attention to detail needed to track through the evidence to find the identity of the killer. It was a gripping portrayal of people determined to succeed but thwarted by the legal system at the time, although pretty much each of the main characters is portrayed as obsessive to some degree or another. Maybe that’s what it takes to track down a killer in the mire of miscommunication, fruit-loop wannabe killers, missing witnesses and alcoholic forensic experts! The film draws strong conclusions about the killer’s identity, but frustratingly it ends as an unsolved crime.
Whilst some may look on this film as too long, or not enough action, I found it deeply interesting and was pleased I went to see it. The obvious parallel to the real case is brought out well, when the detective in charge of the case goes to watch a movie… about a killer in California who goes by the name of Scorpio – yep – it was a Dirty Harry film! Clearly the plot for that mirrored some elements of the case.
The ending is one of those where blocks of text come up to tell you about what happened to each of the characters rather than a satisfying end sequence resulting in the police getting their man. Normally I would leave feeling cheated at such endings, but on this occasion it just works. There is nothing too much wrong with this film unless you are expecting it to be just like Dirty Harry, in which case go rent that instead of watch Zodiac. If you like docu-drama type films based on real life then don’t hesitate… go buy your tickets now! I loved it, but then again I am almost obsessive about getting things done ‘just so’!