Have I said this yet? I went to see Zodiac last weekend. Yes, in fact, I think I did mention that. I’ve been back to see it again, on Thursday night. It’s really well done. It functions beautifully on many levels: entertainment, mystery, story-telling… really. I am usually very tough on films that seek to compress “real life” events into a tangible plot — they tend to go bad by either trying too hard to entertain or trying too hard to be truthful. This movie, however, has a clear focus and a clear path: it’s telling the story, not of this serial killer investigation, but of the way that the investigation consumed the lives of the people involved in it, ending with a focus on how Robert Graysmith became obsessed with it. And along the way, every scene is important to this, every detail builds toward it, but most of them are also functioning on the other levels (entertainment, mystery) at the same time.
Paul Avery, for instance: a real person, a reporter, who was really involved in the story. Every time he shows up, it’s entertaining, but it’s also moving the plot (both of them) along. It’s fascinating. And — he’s used as a marker of time. Graysmith doesn’t change, really, appearance or costume-wise, throughout, and the cops don’t either, but Avery reminds us of the times. Brilliant performance by Robert Downey Jr., too.
Or, how’s this — every time the detectives (Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards as Toschi and Armstrong) are the focus of the film, they’re in a different place. Sitting at the desks. Standing on the stairs. In the car. At their homes. At a diner. Off on unrelated calls. Striding through the newspaper office. They’re men on the move — they have other things going on (unlike Graysmith). Brilliant filmmaking.
Clearly, I’m impressed. On the second viewing, the movie was even tighter, even more interesting and engaging. So if I wasn’t appropriately enthusiastic last time, this time, I’m saying, this is a movie worth seeing. It’s interesting. I may see it again — just to figure out how it’s working, because for this “type” of film to work for me is surprising.
I like how things like this tend to lead me in new interest directions. In Zodiac, there’s a brief mention of Bullitt, something like this:
Graysmith: He wears his gun like Bullitt!
Avery: No, McQueen got that from Toschi.
I have only a passing Steve McQueen knowledge, but I was intrigued and did, therefore, look to see what that was all about. McQueen “based” his portrayal of Frank Bullitt on Inspector Dave Toschi (played by Mark Ruffalo in Zodiac). So I rented Bullitt with my one-free-a-month thing at Blockbuster. It’s fun — it indulges my love of the 70s nicely, and the nine minute car chase? Yep, I agree, one of the best car chases ever, if simply because it feels like a REAL car chase. The cars get beat up, the people look nervous, and there’s no music — just cars grumbling and groaning.