MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +3

Content: -4

Jake Gyllenthal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey, Jr., Anthony Edwards. Crime thriller. Written by James Vanderbilt. Directed by David Fincher.

FILM SYNOPSIS: It began in 1969. San Francisco and Northern California had to deal with a stalking serial killer. He would communicate with one of San Franciscos main papers. What was so truly horrifying was the seeming randomness of the killings and how impotent the police and Californias citizens felt. Though the murders finally ended, Zodiac was never caught. The film concerns the police and press attempting to decode the clues the killer sends them.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Suspenseful, completely engrossing, Zodiac is a truly terrifying movie-going experience because it is a horror movie about a real-life monster.

Writer James Vanderbilt (The Guardian, Darkness Falls) and director David Fincher (Lords of Dogtown) mesh their talents brilliantly, using visuals and dialogue to completely captivate the audience. The acting and technical components are standout, with the set designer and art director bringing the look of that era to the screen with such skill that those of us who were around during those years will feel theyve been warped back through time. Technically and artistically, this is as good as it gets. But before you decide to attend, keep the content in mind. Mingled with the sparking dialogue, we are forced to endure a stream of invective language. And then there is the misuse of Christs name. Whenever the actors want to portray confusion, exasperation or irritation, out comes For Christs sakes, Jesus Christ or Jesus H. Christ. Theres even one use of His name with added verbs that I wont print here. Trust me, its as close to blasphemy as you can get. How did this ever happen? How did the name of our Savior, who died for all mankind so that they could have an everlasting relationship with the Creator of the universe, become nothing more to moviemakers than a relief of frustration?

Next, there is the films violence. Understandably, the violent acts are there to convey the utter soullessness of the killer. But each recreated crime jolts you. At one point, I actually said, Oh my God out loud as if viewing the real thing. There was a time when we couldnt handle the imagery of two tied people being stabbed repeatedly while groaning their terror and pain. Evidently, moviegoers have evolved into beings capable of such realistic detail. But were we meant to? And is it necessary to graphically portray this act of inhumanity in the name of entertainment?

Long, at 2 hrs, 40 minutes, it is spellbinding, yet unnerving. And those who put hearing the profane use of Christs name up there with fingernails on a chalkboard may find the filmmakers achievements ultimately unsatisfying.

That said, my Video Alternative will sound hypocritical. Dead Man Walking. Starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn this film was surprisingly open to all sides of the capital punishment debate. What's more, the gut-wrenching plight of victims of crime was never overshadowed by the fate of the criminal. Although Ms. Sarandon and director Tim Robbins are renown for their extreme political and social ideals, here they seem tempered by an openness to every point of view. The audience was never subjected to sermonettes, but rather we saw average people dealing with terror, loss, guilt and forgiveness. I offer up this video suggestion because the R-material (violent acts and obscenity) was never exploitive, but rather seemed justified as it revealed the ignorance of the perpetrator. The strong message of the courage and strength of Jesus overrides the movie's brutality. (At least for me). The events of this true story reveal how a heart ruled by patience and faith can "move mountains." Several ending scenes focus on the outcome of a life dedicated to spiritual truths. We see how a hurting and ignorant heart can be changed when we live the greatest command - love.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Warner Bros/Paramount Pictures

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: There are a couple of crude sexual comments.

Obscene Language: 20 or so obscenities, mostly the f-and s-words.

Profanity: Around 8 profanities (the misuse of Gods name and Christs).

Violence: There are bloody depictions of murders, a callous killer shoots people at point blank range, leaving most to suffer before dying. One particular startling moment occurs when the villain suddenly begins stabbing a helpless couple. It is graphic and nauseating. After picking up a stranded motorist and her infant, the killer threatens to throw the baby out the window before killing the woman. Blood: Lots of blood sprayed when people are shot at close range.

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: A writer, played by Robert Downey, is a drunk and a drug user. That said, the depiction shows a man deteriorating due to his accesses.

Other: None

Running Time: 160 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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