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London Film Festival 2023 Review: The Killer – “David Fincher Continues to Make Great Filmmaking Look Easy”

When David Fincher recommends a movie, people sit up and take notice. Recently, the director mentioned how much he liked Pacifiction, Albert Serra’s sultry story of corrupt Tahitian politics.  It’s clear that Pacifiction has influenced The Killer, Fincher’s latest film, which also spends some of its length lingering on stunning sunsets that mask dirty deeds. But, The Killer is much more than an homage to another director’s work, especially when Fincher’s own catalogue is there to be explored. This film is a blisteringly wry look at our obsession with hitmen, an unofficial sequel to Fight Club and at times, a deconstruction of the Fincher myth. It is breakneck, whipsmart and bang on the zeitgeist. It’s also very straightforward, likely to confound fans looking for the twists and turns of  previous Fincher hits The Game or Gone Girl.

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The Killer begins with the titular hitman (Michael Fassbender) stalking a target in Paris, who refuses to show. This first of six discrete sections of the film creates a slow and intensifying pace, akin to Zodiac. And this first location mirrors the end of Fight Club; the crumbling office blocks of Americana replaced with half-finished wework offices. Fincher loves to play with the viewer, deliberately withholding the action as the killer also grows impatient. This fallow period allows entry into the killer’s exhausting thought process, lines skilfully crafted by Andrew Kevin Walker, the writer of Se7en and script doctor to Fight Club. The Killer is a very voiceover-driven movie, the protagonist’s monologuing acting as a freaky hybrid of Tyler Durden and Jack’s Narrator, ensuring that we know that the killer is also a professional…arsehole. And yet he’s not wrong when delivering compelling anti-captalist testimony or meticulously talking through his process. So when the action does kick in, we are fully behind our hitman zipping across continents as consequences ripple through all levels of society. This film is Fassbender’s movie, who is perfectly cast, although there’s room for good work from Charles Parnell and Tilda Swinton and numerous other players in the killer’s world, each shadier and pithier than the last.

Fincher’s love of fetishisation is put to good use, with shots of tidy lock-ups, multiple passports and weaponry. Most things in the killer’s life are precise, sexy and undeniably dangerous. There’s also room for the film’s funny quirks. From the hitman’s German-tourist look, disdain and seeming loneliness to hilarious altercations with a pitbull and a wheelie bin as The Killer races to its conclusion. Perhaps the real twist of The Killer is in its humanising of the comic-book caricature. This man is neither incompetent, nor quite all there.

Never has the phrase ‘all killer, no filler’ been more true than when applied to this brilliant movie. The Killer contains everything a modern action flick should: soliloquies, fight scenes, moody settings, quick cuts, slow overhead shots and a pulse-quickening dynamism. Fincher can’t help but make The Killer look so cool and easy. Don’t be fooled, making a film this good isn’t easy at all.

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