David Fincher’s “The Killer” opens with a sequence that, upon first glance, skirts dangerously close to indulgence. Fincher and cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt deliver gorgeous cinematic visuals that thoroughly set the tone. The first low rumbles of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score tremble across the screen, and Andrew Kevin Walker’s screenwriting takes center stage as Fassbender delivers a lengthy internal monologue about preparation and anticipation. It’s a style that fits Fincher like a glove, but it’s very nearly all style and no substance—right up until the fifteen-minute mark, that is.
After waxing poetic about the necessity of meticulous preparation and the need for perfection in the narration as he prepares to execute a target, things go bat-shit sideways in one of the funniest subversions an audience is likely to see this year. Not only is this a grade-A gag, but it also dictates the form and content of the rest of the film in profound ways, all while showing us Fincher is more than in on the joke.
4. Reznor and Ross’ Score
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have consistently collaborated with Fincher ever since their first project together on The Social Network, which earned them an Academy Award. The reason for this enduring partnership is evident. From “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” to “Mank,” Reznor and Ross, alongside Fincher’s longtime ingenious sound designer Ren Klyce, have meticulously crafted the sonic landscapes of each film to complement Fincher’s vision impeccably.
In this film, they present a minimalist electronic score that often operates on an almost subliminal level. Pulsating synths and sparse melodic lines are strategically employed to immerse audiences deeper into the psyche of Fassbender’s central character in intriguing ways. This approach helps to construct a profoundly rooted world of apathetic capitalism and the discarded lives it leaves in its wake.
3. That Fight Sequence
Amid this tightly wound, simmering pulp thriller, David Fincher sets the stage for another suspenseful sequence, focusing on one of Fassbender’s targets. However, the situation turns unexpectedly as the sequence transforms into a truly jaw-dropping extended hand-to-hand fight.
The surprise factor plays a significant role, as does the infusion of dark humor into the scene. Witnessing Fincher and his team unleash their creativity and deliver a multi-layered masterclass in action sequences is truly unbelievable. Each shot lingers longer than anticipated, with the actors authentically conveying a sense of relentless panic and desperation. Fincher directs it with an intensity that feels like he’s pressing down on the audience’s throat for several minutes, each escalating beat digging deeper into the collective jugular of the viewers.
It’s insane and scorchingly brilliant.
2. Fassbender’s Masterful Lead
Taking the lead in a David Fincher film is no small feat. Whether it’s Michael Douglas in The Game, Jake Gyllenhaal in Zodiac, or Ben Affleck in Gone Girl, Fincher’s films demand performances where the nuances of each take shape the entirety of the character arc.
In “The Killer,” Fassbender’s role is no exception, and he rises admirably to the challenge. His performance is a blend of precision, intentionality, and, when necessary, panic-induced, all delivered in a deliriously wonderful manner. It’s an extraordinary portrayal, the kind that only an actor of Fassbender’s caliber could fully embrace and execute. Fincher skillfully utilizes every subtle movement to delve deeper into this unnamed character in surprising ways. The result is a perfect harmony between actor and director, culminating in cinematic bliss.
1. Fincher’s Direction
David Fincher is renowned for his meticulous visual craftsmanship. Collaborating with long-term partners like cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt and editor Kirk Baxter, Fincher ensures a visual language marked by his films’ omniscient, stable, and endlessly smooth quality. Throughout his three decades in filmmaking, from “Seven” onwards, the instances of handheld shots in Fincher’s work can almost be counted on a few hands.
In “The Killer,” Fincher purposefully turns his distinctive style against the audience, adapting it to better suit the content. While the film begins with Fincher’s established stylistic sensibilities, the camera deviates from its usual precision when the character faces chaos. The significant use of handheld shots in “The Killer” profoundly impacts longtime Fincher viewers. It’s a masterstroke that intensifies every movement, making each moment more frenzied and impactful.
Moreover, the film is a breathtaking cinematic masterpiece. Fincher’s commitment to perfection once again yields one of the most visually stunning films of the year. It seamlessly fits into his extensive body of work while also pushing boundaries. After three decades, Fincher continues to be an innovator, willing to discard his own rule book and preferences to better serve the film as a whole.