While my expectations were far too high (note to self: don't read reviews of a movie you really, really want to see, even if it got an almost unheard of six out of six stars in Time Out), but this is, if not flawless, then a very near perfect film.
Unlike previous showy features by David Fincher, this one is subtle and relies on the actors' portrayals of their characters to move it along. Therein lies one of the only faults with the piece. I love Jake Gyllenhaal's puppy dog eyes, but he didn't quite hold his own in the last portion of the film. But before I jump on the bullying bandwagon with Fincher and Ruffalo, I will say this: I think Jake is capable of the performance needed (see Donny Darko), Dare I say he was possibly given bad direction?
Of course Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. are truly beyond great, to the point that I seriously wonder how it's possible to ooze so much genuine charm. As for the plot, [Spoiler Alert], you might want to know that the killer was never caught, in case you don't know your history. You might also want to be warned that this is not the violent movie one might expect.
The murder scenes come early and are very, very, eerily effective, but this isn't a blood and guts or gotcha-around-the-corner type film (in fact, my only other qualm is a later scene in the “gothca!” vein that tries to give the willies, but feels like it was tacked on in an effort “not lose the audience”).
While I've said that the film lacks the over the top style of Se7en and Fight Club, it's almost more impressive in terms of set, art, and costume direction. Fincher gives us not the 1970s usually seen in in the movies (tacky bell bottoms and make-us-giggle hair), instead we are engrossed seamlessly in a very naturalistic time that feels real and familiar even to those of us that weren't even born when it all started.