Blu-ray Review: ZODIAC

Paramount Home Entertainment
Release date: Jan 27, 2009
MSRP: $36.99

Director: David Fincer
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox

Based on the book by Richard Graysmith, Zodiac looks at the infamous Zodiac killer that terrorized and captivated California in the mid 70s. The case was never officially solved, but filmmaker David Fincher has chosen to take a stab at not only recreating the case, but also looking further into it and giving us some extra tidbits to ponder.

Zodiac is beautifully shot and well acted. Fincher and crew have painstaking gone over all records to provide as accurate a telling as possible. They deserve credit for this as most filmmakers would have crashed and burned with as ambitious a project as this.

But while it is factually accurate with excellent pacing and acting, I walked away from this wondering exactly what was the point? Why was it made? To me, Zodiac felt like the big screen version of one of the true crime shows that are always on A&E (I can hear the late Paul Winfield narrating it in my head).

To me, a better film might have been made by taking a closer look at Graysmith and his obsession with the Zodiac. He lost/quit his job, lost his wife and kids, for this. What was it that made this a fair trade? Was it something that we, the casual public, couldn’t see? It was touched on a bit in the film, but never tackled in depth.

Zodaic is presented in 1080p with a 2.35:1 ratio. The film looked great on DVD so it should come as no surprise that the BD is killer. Because it was shot digitally in the first place, the image is as close to flawless as can be. There is no grain or scuffs anywhere.
The night shots are where it really shined. There is a scene in which Graysmith confronts a suspect that, while edgy the first time around, is just chilling. The blacks are good and the contrast is outstanding. The day shots are almost as good, with the individual blades of grass standing out.

The soundtrack is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. The sound is good, but the extra channels are not used all that much. The mix is fine, but don’t expect audio magic.

The bonus features are first rate. One look at these and it is clear just how much this project meant to Fincher and company. What we get is a mix of behind the scenes features and true crime documentary footage. Anyone with even a casual interest in the Zodiac case will really enjoy this stuff.

Fincher also provides us with a commentary track that is stellar. The commentaries on his past films (Se7en, Fight Club) were excellent and he continues that trend here. Some nuts and bolts commentary about the technical aspects of filmmaking, but also plenty of anecdotes about the shoot and his time with the cast and crew. A second commentary is also included, one with castmembers (Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr.), producer Brad Fisher, screenwriter/producer James Vanderbilt and author James Ellroy. This second track is also worth checking out; as we get plenty of interesting chatter from the actors while the other three really dig into the original case as well as the research that went into preparing for the film.

The second disc of extras is simply amazing. As I said before, Fincher spent an inordinate amount of time doing research for this film and the evidence is here for our viewing pleasure.

The extras are broken into 2 different headings: FILM & FACT. Film gives us a look at the making of the film. Interesting, but pretty much the kind of stuff you would expect.

The most interesting stuff is under FACT. We get two documentaries that combine for about 2 ½ hours of pretty damn fascinating stuff. The first gives us a look at the entire case, with new interviews with those close to the case, including some survivors of the attacks. The second focuses on the primary suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen. This includes friends, family and even some of the investigating officers.

Zodiac is a film worth upgrading to HD. Fincher is a director that not only works hard to deliver a good film, but also a visually dynamic one. The Blu-ray format serves him quite well here.

Order the Zodiac Blu-ray from Amazon.
Jeremy Lynch