Prayer Focus
Click here to watch THE HOPE on-line!
Movie Review

Zodiac a.k.a. Chronicles Of The Zodiac

MPAA Rating: R for some strong killings, language, drug material and brief sexual images

Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez

Very Offensive
Add to your list?
View your list
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Thriller, Crime, Drama, Historical
2 hr. 38 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
March 2, 2007 (wide—2,300 theaters)
Copyright, Paramount Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Paramount Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures

About murder in the Bible

Featuring: Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain), Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Robert Downey Jr., Brian Cox, Chloë Sevigny
Director: David Fincher
Fight Club,” “Se7en,” “Panic Room
Producer: Louis M. Phillips, Jamie Vanderbilt, Mike Medavoy
Distributor: Paramount Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures

“There’s more than one way to lose your life to a killer.”

I honestly cannot remember the last time I thought a whole lot about movie editing. It must be a rather difficult job, taking hours and hours of scenes and working your magic to put together a seamless movie that flows just right. It also seems like a rather thankless job, as I imagine very, very few people could come up with the top names in film editing today. Well, whoever those top editors are, it would be hard to believe they were editing David Fincher’s latest film, the tortoise-paced detective drama “Zodiac.”

Don’t be fooled into thinking that “Zodiac” is going to be anything like Fincher’s other films “Se7en,” “Fight Club,” or “Panic Room.” “Zodiac” is based on the true story of the Zodiac killer who terrorized California in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Because it is based on a true story, Fincher only goes by the facts of the case, and seems to leave most of the usual artistic interpretation at the door.

As the film opens, we see the Zodiac take some of his first victims, a couple getting set for a romantic encounter on lover’s lane. He then calls in the murder to the police, beginning a game of cat and mouse with the police detectives that will last for years. He also sends letters to the three area newspapers in Northern California, telling them to print the letters on the front page, or more people will die. With the letters he also sends in a code, telling them that whoever cracks the code will be able to reveal his identity. This sparks the interest of Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), a San Francisco newspaper cartoonist with a knack for decoding puzzles.

The paper’s crime reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downy Jr.) also dives head first into the story, hoping to work alongside the detectives on the case in order to find the killer. Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and Inspector William Armstrong are the men assigned the case, and they work tirelessly, devoting all their time in search of any kind of lead or clue that will give them a jump on the case. As time passes the Zodiac continues killing, but in ways usually always different then the time before, keeping the police baffled as to what his next move will be. Eventually, leads begin to trail away, suspects get exonerated by evidence, and departments begin devoting less time to finding the killer. Graysmith continues his obsession into the case, and slowly begins finding clues that had once been overlooked.

The content in “Zodiac” is typical for this kind of film. There are a few bloody, frightening scenes of murder in the beginning of the movie. The second murder scene involving a couple at a lake is particularly disturbing, but is thankfully not all that graphic. There is some strong language in the film, but I must admit I expected there to be more. There are enough profane uses of the name of Jesus Christ to offend Christians in the audience. There is very little sexual content and no nudity to speak of. There is one scene where the detectives are searching through a suspect’s house and find a couple of porn magazines, but we only see the covers briefly, and I honestly couldn’t make anything out. That’s not to say it wasn’t there, I just couldn’t see it. The subject matter alone, though, is enough to keep children and teenagers away. This is an adult drama, and parents should be very cautious if they are considering allowing their children to see the film.

Anyone expecting a serial killer thriller will likely be disappointed by “Zodiac”. It isn’t so much of a thriller as it is a drama focusing on the hard work and years of frustration that can go into a manhunt. But, I must admit, while I wasn’t expecting a serial killer thriller, I was disappointed anyway by the end result because “Zodiac” is simply a flat movie. The film is very, very long and could have used another couple editing jobs to make it more tolerable. This wouldn’t have hurt the film, or its flow, it actually would have benefited from it. There are at least a good 30 minutes that could have been cut from the film, and we would not have missed them. The performances are also disappointing considering the incredible cast that is assembled. All the performances strike the same drab hum-drum note and are never very engaging. We don’t really get to know the characters hunting the killer until later in the film, when we no longer really care and simply want to see what happens in the chase for the Zodiac. And the ending seems thrown together at the last minute, as if they had to get the film out but weren’t quite sure how to conclude it. But, that’s just my opinion, feel free to disagree.

Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Minor

Viewer Comments
Positive—…My friend and I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I felt the pacing was excellent for a film of this length. Throughout the entire 2 ½ + hours I was entertained and never once felt it dragging. Even the audience in the theater seemed to enjoy it and did not seem to mind the long running time. I admit the editing was a bit quick; however, I believe it worked for this film. I have seen many long movies and this is one of the only ones that I can say held my attention the entire time without letting go. I felt the acting was particularly well done, especially Robert Downey and Mark Ruffalo. From a Christian perspective, it is what it seems. This is a story based on real-life events that were not particularly pleasant so one should expect some grisly murders. The movie also centers around characters in the journalism and police industry which are of course known for the profanity that is a part of their daily lives. All those points aside, there is nothing that I found particularly offensive to someone over 16 years of age. Overall, I must say this movie was much better than I expected going in, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested. Keep in mind the content is what you would expect in a Rated R film. I think people forget that Rated R films are not meant to be completely pleasant. It’s the nature of the rating, expect some offensive material. Use your best judgment but if you get a chance to see this film, I highly recommend it.
My Ratings: Offensive / 4
—Chris Byers, age 21
Positive—My cousin and I saw this movie together, and we both were glued to the screen for the entire duration. Yes, the murders were graphic, and the language a bit raw, but the acting was amazing, and the attention to detail was incredible.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4½
—Shannon Carter, age 18
Positive—I couldn’t disagree with the opinion of the reviewer more. Zodiac is one of the best films of 2007 and fascinated me from beginning to end. Zodiac is long but stays focussed on the case and doesn’t go off on tangental subplots like a lesser film would. Because Zodiac is so interesting I never had trouble following it and the films length is necessary to get all the facts to the viewer. The performances are not flat. Robert Downey Jr. is brilliant as Paul Avery. His reaction to receiving a piece of bloody shirt from the Zodiac couldn’t have been more effectively acted. Jake Gyllenhaal is exceptional and has a scene where his mind is so clouded with Zodiac-lore that he is terrified to be in a man’s house who seems creepy.

Gyllenhall really has a handle on the character’s terror and the scene is terrifying for the viewer as well and I for one had goosebumps when it was over. Mark Ruffalo is teriffic as the cop who doggedly pursues the case even though as the years go by it gets less likely that the case will be solved. Zodiac effectively details how hard the police worked on this case and gets the point across that although the killer was never caught it wasn’t for lack of effort it’s just that the case was very complicated.

Zodiac has an excellent 60’s and 70’s feel as these people are pursuing a killer without the use of the internet, e-mail, cel phones, and no fax machine in 2 out of 3 police departments. Zodiac details effectively the frustration of the investigation as cops are presented with evidence that stacks up only to be knocked down, false confessions, and the fact that the murders are so spread out that different departments are investigating them with limited ways to share evidence.

The ending of Zodiac is effective as it is a true event and leaves you with the feeling that the suspect focussed on in this film could very well be the Zodiac(the film is based on books by people who believe this very thing). The violence is brutal and never glorified. There is some language but less that expected. The violence, language, and adult themes put this out of the range for children but Zodiac is a brilliant film that shows hard working police and reporters who got pretty far in their investigation if only circumstances could’ve been fairer.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Andrew, age 32
Comments from young people
Positive—This was just a great, very taut thriller with a moral. It is jampacked with mind blowing shots, a great soundtrack, and facts like there is no tomorrow. If you are in the mood for a frightening, yet rather mild film, this is it. Now, I’m not going to lie, there is quite a bit of cursing, but that is about it. The violence is sparce (perhaps a few sequences of shots to the head, but nothing EXTREMELY VIOLENT… there is only one scene of nudity (on a magazine cover in one of the suspect’s homes… it gets you into the mind of the person in such a subtle way), and some drug use (ironically done by Robert Downey Jr’s character, and with dire consequences). There is nothing to be worried about, but don’t let a little one see it. It’ll give them nightmares. Especially because the Zodiac killer was never caught! Mwahahaha!!! Seriously, it’s a great film. …I saw it twice. In theatres. …The movie feels real, which is a mark of quality.
My Ratings: Average / 5
—JP Hoban, age 17