Zodiac lasts almost three hours, but when it's over, and Jake Gyllenhaal, playing the cartoonist-turned-amateur-sleuth, Robert Graysmith, has looked the Zodiac serial killer in the eyes, you'll find, if you're like me, that the movie moved so fast and kept you so enrapt that only three minutes will have seemed to pass. I loved it.

Zodiac Dirty Harry

I remember watching Dirty Harry and its sequels countless times as a boy, which were loosely based (at least the first installment) on the Zodiac serial killer that terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but found the goofy bad guy of Dirty Harry whom Clint Eastwood goes vigilante-on at the end, to be a mostly unrealistic character, like this is just a movie I'm watching, right?, none of this could happen in real life.

That the Zodiac atrocities did happen in real life makes Zodiac -- already a mesmerizing film -- that much more compelling ... and maddening. For crying out loud, the cops had this creep serial killer fucking nailed multiple times (assuming the script follows reality, which, based on the books, I believe it does). Yet, somehow, through either incorrect descriptions of the perp sent over police radio to officers in the field hot after a murder, or miscommunication and lack of evidence-sharing -- cooperation -- between neighboring police departments, or ineffectual handwriting analysis, let the Zodiac killer slip through the bureaucratic cracks. Were it not for that amateur detective by night/political cartoonist by day, Robert Graysmith, author of Zodiac and Zodiac Unmasked, the true identity of the Zodiac killer (allegedly, assuming Graysmith nailed it) would have forever remained an unsolved mystery.

Zodiac Zodiac Unmasked: The Identity of America's Most Elusive Serial Killers Revealed

Zodiac holds up well under mulitple viewings. You'll catch a lot more of the clues the second time around, sans the suspense since you know what's coming.

Robert Downey, Jr., reprises his role as Julian basically (a grown-up Julian) of Less Than Zero infamy, and mixes booze, cannabis, self-destruction, and reckless investigative journalism to the max, working for the San Francisco Chronicle. I thought Gyllenhaal outshone the two San Francisco detectives, played by Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards. I wouldn't bother so much with the books, since Robert Graysmith was probably a superior cartoonist as opposed to being a writer -- they're simply just not written with much pizzazz. Besides, since Graysmith was used as a consultant for the film, the movie contains every pertinent detail covered in his bestselling true crime classics.