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🎬 #95 The Procedure Of The Procedural.
I love a procedural. A kind of sub-genre that takes us rigorously step by step through a process - usually of solving a crime or uncovering an unknown - think All The President’s Men. They take us on a journey, through mountains of details, twists and turns and resolve in success or failure.
They’re like a narrative essay - collecting facts, evidence, research and presenting all of it to us in a compelling way. It’s no mean feat to keep an audience entertained whilst making sure we don’t get lost in the details.
This week is focused on two of my favourites in recent years.
Happy choosing, happy viewing
FILM ONE: ZODIAC
2007 Dir David Fincher
[2hr 37 mins]
If there’s one word that David Fincher is no stranger to, it’s rigour. His 2007 film takes us on a detail-filled, obsessive investigation into the Zodiac killings that haunted the San Francisco area. And even despite the fact that we know, as an audience, that the killer was never found - Fincher’s film never loosens its grip on us. We’re brought in step by step, murder my murder and watch as those people in charge and even those that aren’t, get wrapped up in the central mystery.
This is Fincher’s second film involving a serial killer, but the emphasise here is much more on the detail. The ‘how to’ of trying to solve a murder or catch the killer. It’s much more about how it effects the lives of the people who’ve devoted themselves to the chase that often ends up fruitless. And in the end it lets us make up our own mind as to who might be guilty - like presenting a case before a jury.
TL;DR Fincher’s cool directorial hand is turned to a real life serial killer mystery and is gripping for every second of its run time.
*Available for a small rental fee on Amazon, Apple, Google and YouTube in the US as well as the UK.
Fact: The filmmakers spent 18 months researching the cases, and interviewing everyone who was a part of the initial investigation.
FILM TWO: ZERO DARK THIRTY
2012 Dir Kathryn Bigelow
Strangely, these films are exactly the same duration - perhaps the perfect duration for a detailed procedural. This is one of my favourite films to watch and learn from -because it achieves something very hard to achieve and it does it quite effortlessly. The protagonist, Maya, even though she is active, trying to track down Osama Bin Laden. She isn’t active in the traditional sense of a protagonist. She spends large portions of the film in rooms asking people questions and at one point we move away from her and follow another group of people and yet, we still are with her. We feel for her when it all comes to an end, because of all the details and hardship she’s had to wade through, and we were with her when no one else believed her.
That to me is an astonishing feat to pull off and all credit is due to Bigelow’s unpretentious delivery of the film, making everything feel effortless - as well as Mark Boal’s rigorous screenplay. This is beast of a film that takes us into the undercover world of those trying to find a needle in a haystack.
TL;DR Bigelow’s next project after winning Best Director is a procedural as detail orientated as any military briefing - an excellent film.
*Available for a small rental fee on Amazon, Apple, Google and YouTube in the US and Apple, Google and YouTube in the UK.
Fact: The raid depicted at the film’s end runs at 25mins - only a few minutes longer than the actual raid.
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