Zodiac starts out nice and creepy with depictions of some of the murders. It remains interesting as the news media starts getting cryptic letters from the killer and different entities attempt to solve the crime. We get a notion of how the investigation was stymied by the technology of the times, the lack of communication between the different jurisdictions, and the expediency of people who simply wanted to gain names for themselves through the investigation. However, the film eventually settles upon characters who aren’t that compelling, with Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) being key among them.
I was completely uninterested in the attempts to show how Graysmith’s obsession with the crime had a devastating effect on his personal life. I would have preferred to see more about the actual suspects. It turns out that each of the key figures in the investigation—Ruffalo’s cop, Downey’s reporter, and Gyllenhaal as a political cartoonist who loves puzzles—has his own “favorite” suspect. I would have loved to see those suspects in action so that as a viewer, I could get a sense of why each one seemed to fit the bill.
Lastly, the film was told in a straight, chronological order that necessitated a succession of time cues (e.g. “12 hours later” or “4 years later.”) The use of strategically orchestrated flashbacks could have effectively alleviated some of this and possibly improved the movie’s overall pace (I should mention that at 2 hr. 38 min., the movie’s run time is way too long). Summer of Sam and Monster are shining examples of films that dealt with their true life murderous subjects much better.