David Fincher's magnificently obsessive new film Zodiac is part police procedural, part monster movie, a funereal entertainment that is a testament to this cinematic savant's gifts.
This relentlessly swift film super-charges every minute with a maximum of minutiae. Dizzyingly dense, intricate in the extreme, Zodiac is the most information-packed procedural since JFK.
Obsession is the real subject here, and obsessing about anything briskly doesn't count. Yet the film also feels self-obsessed, an intriguing drama that slowly devolves into a bleak meditation on the absence of dramatics.
The most perverse thing about Zodiac isn't that its Hollywood's umpteenth serial-killer flick, when such crimes are rare in reality. It's that Zodiac, though based on actual crimes, is one of the dullest of these films to date.
I don't think Fincher can relate much to moral outrage. What occupies him is how to send you home antsy, unsure of what you've seen but sure it was worse than you think. He gives you the existential willies.
Any honest neurotic could probably tell you: the emotional payoff of an obsession is not attaining some longed-for goal -- it's the obsession itself, which fulfills certain needs.
It's fascinating and unexpected both in its simple, looming images and its storytelling priorities, which may not intersect with the priorities of audiences who couldn't get enough of Se7en.
Zodiac runs long, about 21/2 hours, but it also runs fast, at a heart-pounding pace over four major characters and 22 years. There's not an ounce of fat on any sequence or performance.
The Zodiac killer was never found. Dealing with a murder mystery that's still unsolved gives Fincher shaky enough ground for drama. Add in a protagonist who seems driven by a vacuum, and you pretty much have a movie about nothing going nowhere.
Fincher leads us down little dark alleys and side streets, and we're never quite sure who might jump out to be the killer. After three decades, details of the case have faded from public consciousness, so the movie is surprising at times.