Rob: Fincher #4
As you’ll clearly see from this review, I think my favorite Fincher film (between the top 4, I mean) is the one that I’ve just watched. They are all markedly different, but they are all undoubtedly made by the same person. Which is the best? Depends on which day I’m asked. But if you watch these four back to back, I don’t see how you can deny what an amazing talent David Fincher is.
Zodiac: Few directors can revisit familiar material and simultaneously take their games to a new level. David Fincher does both in this film. It is an ensemble piece of the highest order: Jake Gyllenhaal–anchoring the proceedings with naturalness and complete believability–Robert Downey Jr.–electrifying and restrained by turns–Mark Ruffalo, Brian Cox, John Carroll Lynch, Elias Koteas, Philip Baker Hall, Dermot Mulroney, and others. They all dig into their characters without distractingly vying for attention. The film runs longer than Fight Club, Seven, and The Social Network, but it never flags. Far from it, actually; from the first minute, you won’t want to pause or stop until the last. Featuring exquisite period detail and a painstaking upholding of play-by-play events (dates, times, etc.), Zodiac, perhaps more than any other film, reveals the director as a relentless perfectionist. And just like the three films previously mentioned, this one is never at a loss to offer a persuasive argument for such precision, as it generously rewards in every aspect of below-the-line work (try to find continuity errors in Fincher’s oeuvre; I dare you). The obvious precedent for this was Seven; while the two works hold sharp distinctions, they mirror each other in both strengths and weaknesses. I would’ve liked a fuller picture of Robert and Melanie’s marital strife (and more Chloë Sevigny), just as I would’ve liked the same of David and Tracy’s marital bliss (and more Gwyneth Paltrow). Yet, I don’t think that this lack of democratic distribution detracts from either film’s power. Whereas Seven portrays an investigation made grueling by the compression of time (measured in days), Zodiac portrays one made grueling by the elongation of time (measured in years). Whereas the killer in Seven finds his roots in demented religious retribution, the killer in Zodiac seems to target at random and seems to hold no fervor to speak of. Seven is near grungy, bordering on (dare I say it?) camp; Zodiac is near artsy, bordering on formalism. Seven punches you in the gut; Zodiac clinically recreates history. Which is the “better” film? I don’t know, but I would rather watch Seven on a given day, and I am left with more to think about afterwords. Zodiac ends with neither a revelation nor a trial nor a conviction nor any truly monumental event. Realistic, sure, but Fincher is not accused of emotional detachment for no reason. The fact that I’m somewhat up-in-the-air over a rivalry between a film that I placed 1st and a film that I placed 4th (with 2 masterpieces in between) is a sterling testament to the achievements of a technical craftsman, a born storyteller, and a filmmaking force for years to come.