Never before has a movie exposed so obviously a flaw in my own thinking.

Zodiac is a 2007 film that follows a cartoonist, a news reporter, and a detective as we all try and figure out who’s the serial killer that’s been terrorizing the streets of San Francisco.

(Spoilers: I believe spoilers don’t matter unless you like to rewatch and reexperience stories. We watch movies not for what happens but for why it happens. Knowing what happens just adds to the immersion, and allows you to understand why it happens more deeply. Nevertheless, in this case, it’s a spoiler of the experience of the film. So I would recommend coming back to this after you have seen it.)

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This film plays with the viewer, knowing the viewer comes into these mystery films with certain expectations and certain typical story beats. First off, they give us a promise very early in the movie. The killer sends a code to be deciphered, and the viewer is given this code.

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We’ve been promised this is going to be a grand puzzle. Us verse the serial killer. Let’s stay aware and find those subtle hidden clues. The movie leans on this, citing old stories about the most dangerous game and more riddles. After your expectations are planted, the story starts to interweave obvious clues, that hint how the zodiac killer right here in front of you. But it’s too simple of a solution in this complex puzzle. It’s not satisfying. So, naturally, we reject it.

In the end, after being told who was the killer, I was left scratching my head. That can’t be him, I thought. I discussed it with my girlfriend. We scratched some more. Then, I took to the internet…which also seemed confused. Then it dawned on me.

Occum’s Razor: the simplest solution is the most likely the right one.