Who's in It:
Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Robert Downey Jr., Brian Cox, Chloë Sevigny
The Basics: Be well-rested when you see this one, because by the final credits, you're going to feel like you've worked an eight-hour shift. I know that doesn't sound like praise, but it is. Because this excellent movie about the real-life early '70s San Francisco serial killer who called himself Zodiac might be the most densely packed, exhaustingly detailed piece of information-overload you'll see all year. It's about how one horrifying lunatic can manipulate the press, exhaust an army of detectives, change pop culture (the peace-and-love hippies were already dealing with Altamont and Manson by the time this cat came along) and teach future MySpace generations about how to promote their personal "brands." In fact, the volume of stuff surrounding him sometimes makes it seem as though the murders were almost an afterthought.
What's the Deal? If you watch any of the 17 Law & Order shows, then you know how this sort of thing goes. But it takes that "procedural" template and explodes it into details layered on top of clues woven through characters that enter and exit without ever stopping to become "likeable" or "engaging" in the way you normally expect a mainstream movie to deliver them to you. It's as though director David Fincher learned everything he could about Zodiac and tried to throw all the facts at you at once, going off on tangents and digressions for two and a half hours. It sounds maddening, and it sort of is, in an exhilarating way much like hunting for a serial killer you can't catch.
Based on: Robert Graysmith's (played by Gyllenhaal) books about the killer. And now he's working on one about shooting this movie. How'd you like to have that as your life's work? I mean, someone had to do it, but if you think your job is a bummer, try being this guy.
Not to Be Confused With: The 2005 movie The Zodiac, which feels like a cheaply violent and reductive Reader's Digest-y TV movie compared to this. You should also not confuse it with 2005's Curse of the Zodiac Killer or 1971's The Zodiac Killer. But you probably won't.
Thanks a Lot, Entertainment Weekly: They ran an article this week about Fincher and suggested that since Zodiac was never caught, it's possible that if you go see the movie, you might be the lucky person who gets to sit next to him. That's not too creepy to think about at all.