The director is David Fincher (who was responsible for the over-rated but undeniably fascinating 'Fight Club,' and other distractingly fast-paced thrillers like 'Se7en,' 'Panic Room,' and 'The Game'). Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey jr play journalists obsessed with catching the killer, and the always-wonderful Mark Ruffalo is the detective in charge of the case. The film wears its influences on its sleeve. 70's thrillers like 'All the President's Men,' and 'The Conversation' are evident in every frame (David Shire, 'The Conversation' composer was even hired to do the music). However, unlike most homages, this film is entirely worthy of standing shoulder to shoulder with the pictures that inspired it. I'm not kidding; 'Zodiac' is in the same league as 'The Conversation.'
I was so delighted by this movie. Unlike Fincher's previous efforts, 'Zodiac' is very slow-paced, and quite long (almost three hours); it is careful, deliberate, and intelligent. The cinematography is wonderful. The acting is all pitch-perfect. It is an almost flawless piece of cinema.
What really elevated the film into greatness for me was how ethical it dared to be (in other words, how out of step it is with the current moral zeitgeist in America). First, it manages to tell this gruesome story with a surprising amount of restraint. But more importantly, it tells the story of detectives who value due process and the rule of law; without ever falling prey to apologetic left-wing cowardice. It tells the story of men who are strong, but not macho. It was such a relief to see reason and integrity, rather than brute force and simplistic morality, in an American thriller; and as a cinephile with a weak spot for all things slow-paced, I was in heaven watching the plot unfurl with so much grace and control. The editing was masterful.
Zodiac is the best thriller in recent years.