The Killer | Review by: Amanda Guarragi
If you’re a fan of David Fincher, you know he is a master at constructing psychological thrillers. He has a way of delving into the psyche of his characters and projecting their thoughts most viscerally. Fincher’s The Killer is a return to form and has one of Michael Fassbender’s best performances. Fincher and Fassbender create a cold and calculated assassin attempting to battle his employers after a hit goes awry. From the moment the film begins, Fincher places you in the mind of a killer. The killer is stationed in an empty apartment across from a hotel where his target is staying. Fincher references Rear Window as The Killer scopes the apartment through binoculars and his sniper lens to get everything in place. Then, the killer’s internal dialogue has Fassbender going through the motions of what it takes to be an assassin: don’t show empathy, and don’t improvise.
The film is based on the graphic novel written by Alexis Nolent and illustrated by Luc Jacamon. It is straightforward and is divided into five acts. Writer Andrew Kevin Walker structured it to show the killer and his skillset. The conflict between himself and his employer slowly unravels and becomes an international man-hunt. There’s a slow build of information through the killer’s internal dialogue because of how precise the execution needs to be to get him out of situations. In each section, we see how brutal the killer can become. His empathy is tested when an innocent bystander gets in the way, and it was interesting to see how he handled it. Even though he is an assassin, Fassbender draws you in with his demeanour and how his character explains the situation. He is always composed yet menacing, which makes him one of his most intriguing characters yet. This cold-hearted crime-thriller subverts expectations and flips the script on the assassin.
The standout in this film is the sound design. Sadly, the Academy has combined sound mixing and editing into one category when both service something different. From the moment we meet the killer, his internal dialogue fills the air to create a foundation for the audience. Viewers get to know how he operates because of what he’s thinking as he prepares to take the shot. Fincher goes further and places the viewer directly into his mind through sound. He adds another layer through the songs the killer listens to prepare. When in his mind, the music is blaring. And once he starts thinking again, it cuts out. Then, he adds another layer with the outside commotion of cars honking, sirens, and birds chirping to show how detailed his mind is. Everything is taken into consideration, and he needs to be sharp at all times. So he registers each sound while calming himself down with a song and reassuring himself about the target, which made for an incredible beginning.
On top of that, the fight choreography was also meticulous and executed to perfection. What worked here is that it’s not an action film with continuous fight sequences. Each section taps into a different skillset of the killer. Fincher slowly builds what the killer is capable of and creates one memorable fight scene. Here, the sound design and internal dialogue mesh beautifully as the killer attempts to finish the job. Not only is this viscerally captivating, but the screenplay dives into relevant social issues explored through a different perspective. The killer can process the crimes of humanity differently and has his commentary as he is about to take his shot. The film also challenges the morality of the assassin when he is backed into a corner. Fincher examines how far his protagonist is willing to go to make things right in his own eyes. Everyone has a breaking point, even an assassin.
The Killer is a cold and calculated thriller with a fantastic performance from Michael Fassbender. This return to form for David Fincher was well-needed. This feels very much in his element as he is the master of creating a dreadful atmosphere with an unlikable character that the audience is so intrigued by they can’t look away. Fincher knows how to place his audience in the mind of his protagonist as their psyche unravels through the space around them. Their mind is projected into the corners of the screen, and it feels like you’re stuck there with them. That’s why most of his films have a lasting impression on viewers. Everything works together perfectly in a Fincher film: the score, sound design, dialogue, and visceral images. His films are meticulous, and all these aspects combined create multifaceted characters unique to the world of Fincher. If you can watch The Killer in theatres, please do so because it is a remarkable experience.
Review by: Amanda Guarragi
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