• Zodiac (2-Disc Director’s Cut Blu-ray)

    Released By: Paramount
    Released On: 01/27/2009
    David Fincher
    Cast:Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Edwards
    Year: 2007

    The Movie:

    Jake Gyllenhall plays Robert Graysmith, a young cartoonist who just barely makes a living working for the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. He’s kind of an odd duck and his strange sense of humor and quirky personality soon starts to annoy a flashy alcholoic reporter named Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.). When it turns out that there’s a serial killer operating in San Francisco, Avery starts to cover the case and soon discovers that Graysmith could actually be a real help thanks to his knack for breaking codes, a trait that the killer, calling himself the Zodiac, seems to enjoy.

    As Avery’s drinking starts to spiral out of control and Graysmith becomes more and more obsessed with the murders, a police inspector named David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo), who has had no luck whatsoever trying to crack this case, enters their lives. The cops bring in handwriting analysis professionals and other experts to no avail while Graysmith’s marriage and home life soon start to suffer for his obsessions… and the Zodiac keeps on killing.

    Set in the tumultuous San Francisco of the 1960’s, David Fincher’s Zodiac is fascinating mix of police procedurals, investigative reporting and traditional thriller movies that’s heavy on character development without sacrificing plot of pacing. At almost three hours in length it would have been easy for the film to slow down but instead, through clever editing, strong writing, great performances and slick cinematography Fincher manages to build tension resulting in a fantastic edge of your seat viewing experience.

    In terms of the acting, both Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. bring their best to their respective roles. As their relationship develops and the plot thickens we’re brought into their world and taken along for the ride precisely because these two central characters are so believable. Supporting efforts from Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox and John Carroll Lynch all flesh the cast out wonderfully but the two leads are the ones who really stand out here. By presenting the case through the eyes of members of the press more than the eyes of the police, Zodiac sets itself apart from most films in this vein, allowing for a different take on the serial killer film. It’s easy to see how Graysmith could become so increasingly obsessed with the case as it develops, and how he would, in a sense, idolize Avery a little bit. This relationship is key to the success of the film and it’s handled incredibly well.

    On top of all of that, the film also really benefits from some great visuals. Fincher’s movies are always slick looking, but the cinematography this time around, courtesy of Harris Savides, has this completely appropriate heat to it that makes the film a sweaty, grimy, and tense experience. David Shire’s original score compliments the rest of the film nicely, helping to enhance the more intense scenes while complimenting the more dramatic aspects of the plot just as effectively.


    Zodiac’s 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is, in short, beautiful. The image is rich with detail throughout and there are no problems at all with mpeg compression artifacts or edge enhancement, nor is there any noticeable aliasing. Seeing as the movie was shot on digital HD gear, there’s no grain to note nor is there any print damage. Color reproduction looks dead on while black levels are strong and deep throughout the film without ever becoming murky. As such, the film has excellent shadow detail, but it’s the outdoor scenes and close up shots that really impress here, as you can see every pore on every actors face and every blade of grass (the scene that takes place beside the lake is stunning). This is definitely one of the best transfers out there right now.

    Also impressive, though not quite so much as the transfer, is the Dolby 5.1 TrueHD English language audio, which comes with subtitle options available in English, English SDH, French and Spanish. While not as active or aggressive as a lot of mixes out there in Blu-ray land, this track never the less gets the job done quite nicely. Dialogue is always easy to follow and understand while the levels remain properly balanced from start to finish. Bass response is strong and there are no problems with hiss or distortion to complain about and the soundtrack has some nice punch to it. Rear channel activity isn’t quite as prevalent as you might think it should be in some spots, but otherwise this mix is very good.

    The first disc contains two commentary tracks, the first of which comes from director David Fincher and the second of which comes from actors Jake Gyllenhall and Robert Downey Jr. who are joined by producer Brad Fischer, producer/writer James Vanderbilt, and crime fiction master James Ellroy. Between the two tracks, you get a pretty good feel for what went into putting this fairly massive production together. Fincher’s track is a detailed examination of the camera work, the pre and post production efforts, casting, location shooting and more. At times it gets fairly technical but Fincher is an interesting and intelligent man and this is a pretty solid track that manages to delve pretty deep into this project. The group commentary is equally interesting though it has a completely different vibe to it. While it doesn’t get into as much of the nitty-gritty as Fincher’s talk does, it does allow a bunch of different contributors to discuss what they did on the film and seeing as everyone did something different, there’s a fair (and welcome) bit of variety. We get a feel for what it was like working in front of the camera, dealing with the studio, writing the film and fleshing out the different characters. Both tracks are definitely worth listening to, though Fincher’s gets a slight edge for being just a bit more involving.

    Disc two starts off with a fantastic documentary entitled Zodiac Deciphered (54:15) that starts off by discussing the real life murder case that inspired the book that in turn inspired the movie. This is a great ‘start to finish’ look at the history of the production that puts everything into context alongside the original killings that started it all. Up next is The Visual Effects Of Zodiac (15:18) and, as you could probably gather, it’s a look at the special effects work that was created for the film while Previsualization is a look at how computer technology was used to flesh out three key scenes in the film by showing finished and unfinished bits next to one another.

    Once we’re done discussing the making of the film we move on to the actual murders starting with the excellent feature length documentary, This Is The Zodiac Speaking (1:42:18). By interviewing true crime experts as well as some of the actual people who were involved with the cast this movie does an excellent job of explaining the facts behind the case. It’s a fascinating history of one of the most unusual murder investigations in American history and it makes for riveting viewing. Complimenting that documentary is His Name Was Arthur Leigh Allen (42:35), which provides some welcome biographical information on the case’s primary suspect.

    All in all, this is an excellent set of supplements and this release stands as one of those rare cases where the extra material really enhances the film, making this release as much a history lesson as a piece of entertainment. Both discs feature animated menus and chapter selection submenus and with the exception of Previsualization, everything is presented in 1080p/1080i full HD.

    The Final Word:

    Tons of extras, a gorgeous transfer and decent audio quality bring Fincher’s dark vision to life. An arresting and involving thriller if ever there was one, Zodiac receives the deluxe treatment that it deserves on Paramount’s excellent Blu-ray release.