+++ Opinion +++
There is no question that David Fincher has directed many great films with “Fight Club”, “Gone Girl”, “Mank”, “The Social Network” or “The Game”. However, according to the general public, his best work is “Seven,” starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. The dark thriller became a modern classic precisely because of its disturbing ending.
In my opinion, however, David Fincher has his true masterpiece with him Delivered Zodiac: The Killer’s Trail, currently available by subscription from Netflix. Again, it’s about the hunt for a serial killer. In this case, the whole thing is based on a true story, which makes your blood run cold…
Between 1968 and 1969, the so-called “Zodiac Killer” murdered five people in the San Francisco area. Two other victims survived his attacks. In countless, mostly coded letters, the serial killer contacted the press and the police – and thus mocked his pursuers to the letter.
Young cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) works at the San Francisco Chronicle and witnesses the killer’s encrypted messages causing a stir. Graysmith becomes obsessed with finding the mysterious killer. He is assisted by star reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) and Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo).
So “Zodiac” comes up with three Marvel stars who work together to convict a serial killer. Because while Robert Downey Jr. saves the world as the egocentric Iron Man, Mark Ruffalo as the incredible Hulk is known for his aggression problems. Jake Gyllenhaal took on the role of Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home, making life difficult for the friendly neighborhood spider.
Again and again, David Fincher is accused of enjoying himself far too much in the role of the stylist for his films to be able to reveal any profound content. “Fight Club” in particular was often referred to as the revolutionary fantasy of a pubescent that was compulsively trimmed to cult status. In “Zodiac”, however, David Fincher is more mature than ever.
Of course, Fincher once again illustrates his virtuoso audiovisuality in “Zodiac” when he penetrates San Francisco at night with an almost inspecting look and fathoms the west coast metropolis on its abysses, its fears, its secrets: The lights of the big city don’t emanate from people, but from perpetrators.
It is interesting that “Zodiac” consistently refuses to assign an identity to the perpetrators – or the eponymous killer himself. The film thus undermines almost every narrative convention that we know from classic crime storiesin which the culprit can still be successfully convicted in the end.
In reality, however, the Zodiac killer was never caught. You had some suspects but no evidence. This is also true of David Fincher, who puts the viewer alongside Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo, but also doesn’t give them any more knowledge than the protagonists. You’re in the same boat with the main actors – and that’s the great tragedy.
If you look for heroes in Zodiac, you’ll soon find that instead you’re dealing with drunken scoundrels, over-ambitious boy scouts and cookie-craving cops who have nothing in common with Dirty Harry. They are all confronted with the realization that realistic investigative work is simply based on earthly standards.
Maybe that’s why at some point you have to admit that there are cases that can’t be solved because they don’t want to be solved. “Zodiac” is therefore also a film of disillusionment; a film of crude assumptions that shows that evil can never be pushed out of the middle of society. No matter how hard you try.
What David Fincher addresses in an equally exciting and almost documentary way is the dubious fascination for serial killers, which has developed into a kind of cultural constant in the United States. This turns our Netflix tip “Zodiac” into a film about panic and paranoia – and we as viewers are exposed to the fact that we want to compulsively maintain exactly these emotional worlds.
Where the killer once held up a mirror to the police, the press and the population, David Fincher now shows in “Zodiac” without stupid sensationalism that we are all victims of our own urge for recognition. Because too often we want to prove something to ourselves. The result is a trail that only leads to our own failure – and declares “Zodiac” to be the alternative to the classic crime film.
This is a re-release of an article previously published on DashFUN.