Length only detraction in psychological thriller

The puzzle thriller “Zodiac” kills from the very beginning and ends leaving the viewer wondering if the killer was in the audience while they were watching. This unique situation sets “Zodiac” apart from every other fright movie out there.Starring Jake Gyllenhaal (“Brokeback Mountain”), Mark Ruffalo (“Just Like Heaven”) and Robert Downey Jr. (“Wonder Boys”), “Zodiac” recreates the case of the mass-murderer by the self-proclaimed name who was never apprehended by authorities for the killings of his victims during the late 1960s and ’70s. Throughout California, from Vallejo to San Francisco, the “Zodiac” terrorized the state by killing his victims in no particular way or fashion.

Directed by David Fincher (“Se7en”), this true account scares mainly because it is so real. There are no masks or makeup, simply cold-blooded murder. The reality this low-key kind of cinematography creates gives the viewer a first-hand look into the murder case, seeing every break in the case as it happens along with Gyllenhaal.

Gyllenhaal leads the way as a cartoonist-turned-detective for the San Francisco Chronicle. He becomes entranced with the “Zodiac,” to the point where he will stop at nothing in his pursuit to find the true killer. During the movie, he is transformed from a simple man employed by a newspaper to a crazed fanatic who sacrifices everything for a lead in the case.

Downey Jr. adds pleasing comic relief that settles the stomach and eases the mind, but the suspense does not quell for too long. “Zodiac” rekindles the serial-killer-genre flame in an awesome way. It is an intense, gritty film from the very start and never lets up.

This film follows the same chronological order that took place back in the ’60s and ’70s, and, in scale, it covers about the same amount of time. With a running time of two hours and 40 minutes, “Zodiac” is a bit lengthy, but, because of the suspense and excitement that oozes from this film, the length is but a minute deficiency.

Having never been caught, the “Zodiac” could still be alive, living among the people of this country, eating popcorn and watching the same film on the big screen.

Five out of five stars