BBC2: Saturday 25 July, 10.40pm
The killing of two canoodling teenagers on the July 4 holiday weekend in 1969 sparked a California manhunt for a gloating killer who signed himself Zodiac. It was the killer himself who reported the shootings to the police: “I also killed those kids last year. Goodbye.” San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Jake Gyllenhaal becomes as obsessed with the case as the investigating cop Mark Ruffalo, who is cheesed off – two years down the line – when the police department holds a special screening of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry. Inspired by the Zodiac killings, the movie pits mad dog Clint against a crazy sniper called Scorpio. Clint got his man, and the SFPD think they’ve got theirs when creepy loner John Carroll Lynch is tracked down to a Santa Rosa trailer park. He certainly acts as though he could be Zodiac. But, as he says: “I’m not the Zodiac. But, if I was, I certainly wouldn’t tell you.” About the only thing the police know for sure about the Zodiac is that he reads the Chronicle. With discreetly eerie music by 70s cinema maestro David Shire (The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, The Conversation and All the President’s Men were all his), David Fincher’s unsettling jigsaw thriller shows, to disconcerting effect, how easily killers can slide into the margins. Not the least of its considerable achievements is to make Donovan’s innocent Hurdy Gurdy Man seem like the most sinister song to emerge from the Age of Aquarius. With the likes of Se7en (Sky Movies Select, Thursday, 10pm), Fight Club (ITV4, Tuesday, 11.40pm) and The Social Network, David Fincher has proved that he’s one of the best film-makers working in America. But he will never make a better movie than Zodiac. It’s his Psycho and Vertigo rolled into one.