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david fincher

Zodiac, the story of the Zodiac killer and his spree in the late 1960’s thru early 1970’s is a pervasive look into the mind and mind games of a serial killer wonderfully presented on the big screen by David Fincher. It’s hard to say if many are seeing the film based purely on memories of the horrific events in northern California or for the marketing machine pushing the film from the director of Se7en. In either case, the audience is treated to a visually stunning masterpiece of cinematography and storytelling that once again raises the bar for each.

The film immediately hooks you with its pre-credit sequence about the attempted murder of two victims and maintains that hook relying on Fincher’s dark visual style and the compelling story of the police’s pursuit of apprehending the self-named Zodiac which eventually morphs into the quest of a former San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist, Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), to finally discover the identity of the Zodiac killer and come face to face with him.

Gyllenhaal’s performance is excellent, perfecting the portrayal of the debating Graysmith who becomes involved in Zodiac case little by little by overhearing meetings at the Chronicle which eventually turns into his own private investigation into the elusive killer’s identity ultimately coming to a conclusion that has since been disproved by partial DNA evidence.

Those familiar with Fincher’s work, especially that of Panic Room and Se7en, will see many similarities in his style here but some amazing new camera work as well. The opening shot of the film is a long cut out of the passenger window of a car as it passes down a rural residential street is just one of the many ways Fincher visually wows the audience during the film. Several times during the movie I leaned over to those I was seeing the film with and simply said, “that’s cool.” Very few directors can get that sort of reaction to their choice of camera shots, but Fincher routinely manages to push the bar higher and higher.

Another strong point about the film is its authenticity accurately portraying early 1970’s fashion and live style right down to the retro Paramount and Warner Bros. logos opening the production up.

Focusing back on the cast of characters, Robert Downey, Jr. makes yet another strong project decision by inheriting and owning the role of Chronicle writer Paul Avery, whose presence fades as the film goes on, but is never forgotten. His snarky comments and alcoholic breakdown near the film’s turning point are definitely one of the most memorable aspects of the entire movie. Mark Ruffalo, sporting some bad 70’s hair, also stamps your memory with his portrayal of Zodiac lead investigator David Toschi who becomes disenfranchised over his many years working on it.

The only complaint about the film is its running time which normally feels like a brisk two hours and 40 minutes, but at times can seem to drag here and there with bits that could have been trimmed and still preserve the overall integrity of the narrative. Other than that, Zodiac is easily the best movie released this year and its strong cast, compelling story, and rock-solid direction are all the more reason to see this film.

Panic Room is a David Fincher movie. There is no doubt about it. From the very opening credit sequence to the closing credit reel, Panic Room has the style, and darkness that inhabit all of Fincher’s other movies including Fight Club, and Se7en.

One thing that David Fincher is known for is his high-budget, engrossing opening sequences and tricky camera effects. Many, including myself, relay the same feelings for a similar director, with a similar style, Sam Raimi.

Panic Room takes place in an 19th century New York Townhouse of sorts. This three floor house was once inhabited by a rich businessman who became so paranoid about anything in his later years that he had a massive security system installed, along with a panic room. A panic room is a small room filled with rations, video monitors, and it’s own phone line, so in the advent of a break in, the family could survive months if they had to. Surrounding the room is four feet of concrete with a generous helping of steel, in one word, impenetrable.

The films main character, Meg (Jodie Foster), is recently divorced from her husband and moves into the house with her daughter Sarah after the old businessman’s death. Unknown to her, a small fortune has been holed up in a safe inside of the room, and when one of the old man’s grandsons becomes disgruntled by the lack of inheritance he received, he enlists the help of Burnham (Forest Whitaker) and Raoul (Dwight Yoakam) to get his inheritance. Yes, that Dwight Yoakam, the country singer seems to be expanding, and the scary part is, he does a decent job playing the psychopath that is Raoul.

When Foster’s character discovers the burglars in her house, she takes refuge in the panic room with her diabetic daughter. The film then focuses on the perpetrators various attempts to drive Meg and Sarah from the room so they can break into the safe.

While several plot points and actions are more than cliché the movie doesn’t rely on them to step across the finish line. Focusing on the vision of the subject matter, and how the camera is the audience’s eye into this fictional world, David Fincher makes even the simplest thing very dramatic. At several points during the movie the camera makes it’s way through the banister bars on the staircase for a very subtle, yet dramatic visual effect. Also, at several points during the movie, Fincher uses the same fly by effect he used in Fight Club when appearing from the narrators trash can at work. A close pass by normal household objects leaves you with a sense of awe.

As I mentioned above, the opening credit sequence is so Fincher, there is no other way to describe it. Taking a break from the high energy, techno openings of Fight Club and Se7en, Fincher presents the credits as though they are part of the world. Showing various buildings around New York City, the 3D sans serif characters seem to be apart of, branching off of buildings, casting shadows and reflections. It is very hard to describe, but very, very cool to see.

While falling into more than one cliché here and there, Panic Room is an excellent movie, and very suspenseful at a few chosen times. The acting is very well done and the characters are believable with a script that isn’t full of tacky one-liners and pop-culture references. While I love one-liners and pop-culture references as much as the next guy, it was good to get a break from it all, seeing as I will be experiencing comedy genius next week with the long-overdue release of Big Trouble.