As a conventional crime thriller, David Fincherís Zodiac is a turgid, elliptical failure; as an exercise in subverting the usual pleasures of the crime procedural and pushing linear narrative storytelling toward abstraction, though, Zodiac is near genius. Unfolding chronologically from the Zodiac killer's third and fourth victims on July 4, 1969, in Vallejo, Calif., and unspooling until the publication of San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith's 1991 book Zodiac, Fincher's movie is a virtuosic overkill of delineating facts, unproved possible theories, and cul-de-sac investigations. This cinematic Zodiac killer--who, in real life, shot seven known people in 1969 Northern California and held sway over the media with his puzzle-filled letters to newspapers--is less the central villain than a red herring for a gorgeously dark experiment in information overload. Almost every new scene gets a title card contextualizing the scene's relationship to the case: two hours later, three months, later, San Francisco, Vallejo, ad infinitum. And, like the case itself, the more partial clues you get the less informed you feel about the story, as seen through the eyes of Chronicle crime reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.), homicide cops Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and Armstrong (Anthony Edwards, looking very JFK-era Kevin Costner), and eventually cartoonist-turned-investigator Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal). And in cinematographer Harris Savides, Fincher has an ally in reality obscured by the way it looks: their late-'60s/early-'70s San Francisco makes the era's bright yellows and oranges look like the pub-ceiling mustard of an Eastern European bureaucracy, and in their night scenes they have, without doubt, the most underlit commercial movie since Gordon Willis went Rembrandt and lit a Godfather II conversation with nothing but a fireplace.