*. David Fincher likes his serial killers, doesn’t he? I wonder if there’s anything else he finds interesting.
*. This is a film that reminds me, rather uncomfortably, of Oliver Stone’s JFK. One has to be suspicious of these re-writings of history by authors (Garrison in JFK, Graysmith here) inserting themselves into the story as selfless heroes who are the only ones capable of uncovering the Truth, while everyone else stumbles around in a fog.
*. Jake Gyllenhaal. I’ll confess I didn’t like him at all in Donnie Darkko. I thought he seemed blank and sedated. He’s no livelier here.
*. Robert Downey Jr. appears quite comfortable playing a familiar part. I have no idea why he had to have such a big role though. His character isn’t necessary in any way, and at the end the movie just forgets about him.
*. A bold decision to make a 157-minute movie (and that was the theatrical cut) out of a story that doesn’t have an ending.
*. But, back to the ’70s . . .
*. More borrowings from that glorious decade. Another movie you can’t help being reminded of is Close Encounters of the Third Kind, with the hero’s obsession taking over his life and wrecking his family.
*. Finally, a last, conspicuous, precursor is All the President’s Men. Downey and Gyllenhaal are Redford and Hoffman, embodying the glory days of investigative journalism by tracking down leads, doing deep research in dusty archives, and above all trying to make a difference. It was the 1970s, and the little guy could still have such aspirations. David Shire even did the music for both films, which is something Fincher was apparently keen on.
*. Like most of the major, Hollywood productions of this period the whole thing is beautiful to look at: slick, expensive, and well-crafted down to the smallest details. It was also one of the earliest films to be shot (almost entirely) with digital cameras. But there are no real people in it worth caring about, what originality and intelligence it seems to have is on loan from the ’70s, and its heart is missing in action.
To your list of heroic authors rewriting history to solve a mystery that wasn’t solved the first time around I would add Quiz Show (1994). I wrote this a while back (slightly paraphrased):
“The movie is odious because it’s Richard Goodwin’s cheap revenge. Goodwin is the prosecutor played by Rob Morrow, who also co-produced the film. In real life he had no evidence that NBC bigwigs paid off a quiz show contestant not to blab that the show was rigged. He couldn’t legally tie the top brass to the corruption, so 40 years later he has hugely influential movie star and hack director Redford invent a scene where NBC’s president asks the contestant to lie (Redford also significantly enlarged Goodwin’s role in the investigation, apparently).”
Zodiac, the movie, also purports to solve the crime, despite all the fog, implicating one man who in the real world was never caught. It seems like a lot of movie (as you note) to be making what is essentially a cheap shot.
Thanks Tom! I didn’t know that about Quiz Show. Haven’t seen it since it came out. Something to keep in mind if I ever get back to it (but I’m not in a big rush).