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Zodiac (Director's Cut) - Blu-ray DVD / suspense DVD / thriller DVD review
Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 4 1/2 stars
Actors: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox
Director: David Fincher Distributor: Paramount
DVD release: 27 January 2009 Runtime: 157 min.
(2 discs)
Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Widescreen, Blu-ray
DVD features: 1080p High Definition, Aspect ratio 2.35:1, Audio tracks (Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround - English; Original Dolby 1.0 Mono - English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - French, Spanish), Subtitles (English, English SDH, French, Spanish), Commentary w/ dir. David Fincher, Commentary (w/ Jake Gyllenhall, Robert Downey Jr., prod. Brad Fischer, James Vanderbilt and James Ellroy), Zodiac Deciphered HD, The Visual Effects of Zodiac HD, Previsualization HD, This is the Zodiac Speaking (feature-length documentary), His Name Was Arthur Leigh Allen HD, Theatrical trailer

The Zodiac was a serial killer in the late '60s and early '70s who terrorized the San Francisco Bay area, gaining notoriety when he started writing to the local papers and demanding they print his letters and coded messages under threat of death.

David Fincher's Zodiac peels back the layers discovered about this murderer and lays them out for all to see, part newspaper investigation drama, part police procedural. Set in the time of the murders, the feel is so spot-on that I had to check my clothes for polyester content. The police station and newspaper office are all filled with hard-boiled chainsmokers. You can practically smell the stale cigarette smoke, sweat and booze at the Chronicle.

The players in the newspaper drama are crime-beat reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.). He's anxious and eager to get the story but starts packing heat when the Zodiac writes him personally. Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a rookie in the newsroom but cub-scout curious about the details and clues and cyphers the killer taunts the public with.

Playing on the side of John Law is David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo), a by-the-book cop very unlike Dirty Harry, the character loosely based on him. William Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) is Toschi's partner, an excellent investigator who doesn't quite have the stomach for the nature of the crimes.

The drama plays out over the course of years. New relationships are forged then dissolve. Avery's edge is consumed by alcoholism. San Fran's distinctive Trans-American building is erected, and still the killer has not been caught. The film is more like real-life than most films care to be, ultimately more unsettling and gratifying with an unresolved chain of murders than it may have been with a resolution. We are given some leads and possibilities, but that is all. As with Jack the Ripper, Zodiac fires the imagination and suggests that the killer's identity may still be discovered.

The second disc in this excellent set includes the extras that we crave, all in atmospheric HD:
  • A feature on the Zodiac featuring interviews with the investigators, surviving victims and those associated with the case.
  • A feature on Arthur Leigh Allen, the chief suspect.
  • A making-of feature and a visual effects feature
For my money, an open-ended mystery draws me in and holds me. The Zodiac two-disc director's cut had me engrossed for hours; the beautiful Blu-ray picture fills your set with Fincher's beautiful visual style, and the sound sends chills down the spine.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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