A great thriller of the 2000s, and more generally in the history of this genre, “Zodiac” is a film which insists on always being as close as possible to the real facts. That does not prevent him from containing some approximations or taking liberties.
Zodiac : when a stalking turns into an obsession
Monumental thriller lasting more than 2h30, Zodiac is a work that resembles David Fincher. You can feel inside his desire for perfection, control over everything, precision and, above all, his talent as a filmmaker. These qualities were already known from his previous trials, but Zodiac can very easily appear in the upper part of his filmography. As the title suggests, the feature film looks back on the hunt for the famous killer in the 60s and 70s, around San Francisco. No one could ever stop him or even discover his identity at the time (a Frenchman would have managed to do it last year). All this mystery around him aroused a wave of terror but also fascination. Or, rather, obsession.
The film follows Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), a cartoonist who gets it into his head to look into the killer case. In the company of a colleague from San Francisco Chronicle, Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.), he will do everything to reach the goal. Even if it means putting himself in danger or moving away from his own family.
A film as close as possible to reality (with a few freedoms)
David Fincher delivered a great movie about obsession and he’s also known as obsessed with perfection. So for Zodiac, he wanted to be as close as possible to the real facts. This is why he notably sought to come into contact with all the survivors or witnesses who have known the Zodiac. It is no coincidence that the killer’s first attack, at Lake Herman Road, does not serve as an opening for the film – this one begins with the second, on the evening of July 4, 1969. Since no one could bring a testimony, he judged that he could never be in tune with the truth.
A notable step but, nevertheless, the scenario contains some deviations from reality. The most important being that Robert Graysmith and Paul Avery were never friends and close as can be seen in the movie. Their reports were invented for the purposes of the script. Regarding Paul Avery, his life has been changed a bit. Zodiac shows it, in the 70s, when he left the newspaper and lives locked in his home in the dark. However, this is false. In fact, he was still working at San Francisco Chronicle and even investigated the case of Patricia Hearst’s kidnapping. Another dissonance: Melvin Belli never touched the letter from the Zodiac which reached him by mail. All of these differences don’t change much overall, but it’s still fun to see where the film has allowed itself some liberties.