First must-see movie of 2007 arrives

The idea of an unsolved murder is one of frustration and obsession. Think of that times five, and you have an inkling of what it meant to be involved with the still unsolved case of the Zodiac killer. Now, nearly 38 years later, the case is being tackled in the new film from David Fincher, simply titled “Zodiac.”

The story involves itself primarily with three men as they become increasingly involved in the case. The first is journalist Paul Avery (Robert Downy Jr.), who happens to be one of the recipients of the first slew of messages from the Zodiac that were sent to the San Francisco Chronicle. Another curious party, the newspaper’s cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), finds he has difficulty not involving himself with the case even though it does not concern him. Lastly, we are introduced to homicide detective David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo).

The story progresses as their dedication to the case begins to disorient and confuse them.

It was the obsession, not the end result that had these characters coming back to the case year after year.

Directed by David Fincher (“Seven,” “Fight Club”) and written by James Vanderbilt (Basic), “Zodiac” is a true achievement on an epic scale. The screenplay offers an un-sensationalized, realistic account of the Zodiac killings and case, but with the kind of offbeat humor that you’d expect from the director of “Fight Club.”

As a filmmaker, Fincher is precise and thorough, leaving very few details un-chartered in the span of the film’s two hour and forty minute running time. Having used the same digital camera as director Michael Mann (“Collateral”), Fincher is able to give the film a painterly quality.

For its running time, the film is well paced and filled with numerous scenes of painful tension. A sequence with Graysmith in the basement of a possible suspect will likely leave many viewers in a panic.

For a March release, “Zodiac” is an unusual film; it isn’t boring or tedious or melodramatic. It is simply the first great, must-see film of 2007.

Danny Gordon can be contacted at