Jaws introduced us to the shark-cam. From the shark's perspective, we saw the vulnerable legs of that oblivious swimmer just before the deadly strike. Then, blood stained the water.
David Fincher's new film Zodiac, based on a murder mystery that began in 1969 and continues today, opens with "the incoming mail cam." We're drawn into the offices of The San Francisco Chronicle, moving along with a letter penned by a murderer who calls himself "the Zodiac." And when the letter is discovered, fear stains the air … and spreads.
Okay, so the shot isn't as immediately terrifying as that moment in Jaws. But gradually, the Zodiac's letters—which often include puzzling cryptograms, and claim responsibility for brutal murders—inspire a citywide terror. As the cops, investigators, and journalists discuss strategies for catching this shark, they seem every bit as frantic and flustered as the men who hunted the sea monster in Spielberg's famous thriller.
Zodiac's screenplay is as labyrinthine as Oliver Stone's JFK, but Fincher never lets things become a preachy or ponderous commentary. Screenwriter James Vanderbilt took the wealth of information compiled by Robert Graysmith and wove facts, testimonies, and terrifying events into a screenplay that snaps, crackles, and pops. Fincher focuses on recreating these events with meticulous visual detail. He recreates the period with such precision that Zodiac looks like it might have been made at the same time as All the President's Men and The Conversation, films that clearly influenced Fincher's work. It's hard to believe such a studious work would come from the man who crafted such sensual thrillers as Se7en and Fight Club.
But when the killer strikes, Fincher fans will feel the ...1