David Fincher's Zodiac is a terrific thriller, but not for the reasons one might have expected from the director of Se7en and Fight Club. Cool and analytical where those films were fervent and provocative, it reinvents one of the most overused subgenre in all of American cinema, the serial-killer movie. And it does so not through overly obvious technique or even radical story innovations, but through subtle adjustments in perspective that shift the focus from the serial killer's methods and moral impulses (the approach taken by Saw, Se7en, etc.) and toward the tools used by reporters and cops tracking the murderer. This, of course, moves Zodiac into another familiar genre, the police procedural, but Fincher and screenwriter James Vanderbilt show so much disregard for cop movie conventions that their film ends up having more in common with All the President's Men than Dirty Harry—even though Dirty Harry was based on the real Zodiac killer case.
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