Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Critic, Face Up

Stuck in bed sick a few days, I saw several films, courtesy Netflix - I even took some notes while I watched. How pedantic of me! 'Zodiac,' last spring's take on the infamous unsolved 60s/70s serial murders in San Francisco, had been sitting on my table for a while, so I said: 'Hey, what the heck.'

I liked the film, I did, but it's not edge-of-your-seat suspense. It's a well-acted, well-scripted period police procedural with the key twist that it isn't resolved, as it wasn't in real life.

The payoff is how protracted involvement in this gruesome case takes its toll on the film's three protagonists, all played by formidable actors - Mark Ruffalo as detective Dave Toschi, Robert Downey as star crime reporter Paul Avery, and, most intriuiging of all, Jake Gyllenhaal as shy cartoonist/would-be sleuth Robert Graysmith, who eventually wrote the definite 'true crime' best-seller about the killings.

After the trailer below, our 5 parameters of (face up) criticism:

Here's the trailer:

1. Four Words That Encapsule: "Uncrackable Case, Perplexed Threesome"

2. Haiku (5/7/5):
"The 10-year timeline
of random blood and sick notes
never had closure"

3. Oblique Comments: There are many - a) I'll always love Jake G for Brokeback - and Donnie Darko, for that matter, and here he continues to display his range and acumen. He gives Graysmith an uneasy, dark body language different from any performance to date - a transformation recalling Edie Falco in 'Sunshine State,' - posture, accent, and facial expressions are totally morphed; b) Mark Ruffalo deserves greater thanks - he ages and wearies very convincingly here - another flawless performance; c) It's hard for me to judge Robert Downey as I do his co-stars since I've never seen him in anything else - I should probably rent Chaplin or a season of Ally McBeal; d) Soundtrack is perfect - especially Donovan's Hurdy Gurdy Man;' 5) Impressive shots include the 'materialization' of the Transamerica Pyramid, the San Francisco landmark constructed during the film's events.

4. Insight: Why the film works well, without being riveting: the murder scenes are chilling, as they should be, and we are made to feel what the Bay Area felt - fear, fascination, and frustration - in fast forward as we keep cutting a few months ahead - we care about the investigators despite their obsession and live their slow descent - one scene toward the end is unexpectedly bone chilling. The case remains unsolved, and the film respects this, while pointing its fingers sufficiently to allow the audience to reach a conclusion if it chooses. As with any real-life story, the 'epilogue' of what happened to each character is interesting.

5. Metacritic Link. High score (78 average) with broad approval (40 major reviewers). Is something here Oscar-worthy? Or would it be, if this had been a November release instead of a March one?


Cartoons du Jour:

this entry's permalink
Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?