As the years begin to pass—and they leap ahead rapidly in the latter portion of this film—we see Graysmith at the family dinner table, eyes on the TV, which is broadcasting news about the killer—until his wife (Chloe Sevigny) blocks his view of the TV set. But by this time, Graysmith is encouraging his children to pay attention to the case—the only way we see him bond with his offspring.

As Graysmith inserts himself more deeply into the evolving case, even at great personal risk, his wife challenges him. He needs to know who the killer is, Graysmith tells her, but she responds, “Is that more important than your family’s safety?”

Director David Fincher concludes the film with a text that updates viewers on the case and characters. One provocative note informs us that Graysmith today “enjoys a healthy relationship with his children” (his wife is not mentioned). What this means is left for the viewer to figure out.

Running 2 hours and 40 minutes, it’s easy to lose sight of the film’s meaning, especially if the viewer is unaware of the outcome of The Zodiac Killer case, which spans decades. Because the film tells the story of an infamous unsolved case—something that’s been widely acknowledged in press reports and is good to know going in, lest viewers spend 160 minutes anticipating a satisfying resolution to the case—it fails to satisfy a viewer’s thirst for justice, or even closure. But that’s not the movie’s main point. Zodiac is about the toll that obsession, insane working hours, and media saturation take on family life, and whether the pursuit of justice is sufficient rationale for such trials.

Zodiac is fascinating, spectacularly well filmed and well performed. But it offers no comfort. It is unsettling and disturbing, examining earlier roots of so many of our current problems. It challenges us to leave justice to the Lord, but also to admire—to a point—those who are called to pursue it, questioning the limits of such dogged determination. Although the film lacks closure, it reminds us that events are not in our control, but in God’s, who “will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

AUDIENCE:  Adults only

CAUTIONS:

  • Language:  Lord’s name taken in vain; several profanities; a man “flips the bird”; racial epithet.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Two people in a parked car question whether the woman’s husband is watching them; phone calls awaken a husband wife in bed; the killer is referred to by a reporter as a “latent homosexual”; a teacher is said to have been fired for inappropriately touching his students; adult magazines are briefly pictured.
  • Violence:  Depictions of several of the Zodiac killer’s attempted murders, including by gunshot and, in one terrible scene, repeated stabbings; while driving, the killer threatens to throw a baby out of a car window; the Zodiac killer’s notes to the press include references to him being “reborn in paradise” after death, where he “will have slaves in the afterlife”; the notes also threaten specific violence, including attacks on young children, against a priest and an African American; gunfire during killings and during a scene of target practice.
  • Smoking/Drinking:  The main character is said not to smoke or drink; drug and alcohol use by one reporter; scenes in a bar; wine consumption.