WEB EXTRA: Not seeing stars for “Zodiac”

VIRGO: A surprise email or phone call that comes early in the day may be a key to some unexpected good fortune. While you can often be a kind optimist, the planetary energies will help you to express your dissatisfaction with the latest suspense flick “Zodiac.”

The film is based on the investigation into a string of murders in Northern California in the 1970s committed by the “Zodiac Killer.” Consumed by the investigation are Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Paul Avery (Robert Downey, Jr.), a political cartoonist and a police beat reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, respectively, who wish to aid Inspectors Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and Armstrong (Anthony Edwards).

The Zodiac began taunting the police in August 1969 by sending letters to three large San Francisco area newspapers with cryptograms, demanding they be printed on the front page or he would take the lives of a dozen innocent people. Threats in the mail ensued, accompanied by bloodied evidence, blueprints for explosives, and precise outlines of how he would pick off schoolchildren disembarking a bus. Letters continued to the newspapers throughout the decade, with tongue-in-cheek sign-offs like “Zodiac = 12, SFPD = 0.” The Zodiac took credit for 37 murders, though police could only connect him canonically to seven.

It has generally been my experience that when a movie is heavily advertised prior to its release in theatres, it is a film of lesser quality than the average viewer expects. With the wave of “Zodiac” fliers that have flooded the GW campus as of late, my theory remains intact.

To be fair, I had very high expectations. “Zodiac” honestly is the only film released so far this year that I had actively wanted to see (with the obvious exception of “Reno 911!: Miami”). It is the latest film from director David Fincher, the visionary who brought us “Fight Club” and defined the ’90s serial killer film prototype with “Seven.” I entered the theatre with the expectation — nay, the hope — of being frightened to walk home alone. Once the end credits rolled, however, I felt just as ready to accept a ride home from a stranger.

The actors are not at fault. Gyllenhaal and Ruffalo deliver performances that are no less than stellar, as usual, and Downey’s subtle comedy left me giggling throughout the film’s duration. (Should I have expected any less from the man who once claimed “I’m allergic to alcohol and narcotics, I break out in handcuffs”?)

The problem lies with the plot. The film starts off with a bang (literally) and offers some sense of closure at the end, tying up as many loose ends as possible for a case that remains open today. There are a handful of genuinely tense scenes that keep the viewer on edge, but the plot undeniably falls flat in the middle of the movie. It seemed long, and it was, clocking in at 2 hours and 45 minutes. The paradox is that this dull bit furthers the plot, and it cannot really be trimmed down without removing an integral part of the story.

It is with a heavy heart that I do not highly recommend a David Fincher film, especially one featuring the vastly talented Jake Gyllenhaal. (It’s not just that he’s pretty; put “The Good Girl” in your Netflix queue and you’ll see what’s up.) This film is.okay.

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