THE KILLER | Netflix | Select Theatres October 27, 2023 / Streaming November 10, 2023
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Tilda Swinton, Arliss Howard
Directed By: David Fincher
After a fateful near-miss an assassin battles his employers, and himself, on an international manhunt he insists isn't personal.
REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus
The Killer is a David Fincher film through and through with sleek execution, an undeniable visual style that invites you into the deadly world of the film, and an outstanding lead performance from Michael Fassbender that makes this film a riveting watch.
Anytime David Fincher releases a new film, it gives movie lovers a reason to be excited to make a trip to the movie theatre. For years Fincher has wowed audiences with unforgettable films like Se7en, The Social Network, and Gone Girl, each delivering a riveting cinematic experience. For his latest film, Fincher brings the French graphic novel of the same name to the big screen, and while it may be the most straightforward of his films, the story allows Fincher to tap back into his neo-noir roots. It's a thrilling experience that is best experienced on the big screen, as Fincher’s technical prowess is on full display, even if the film does not fully measure up to some of Fincher’s best films.
The Killer is a deadly assassin, carefully planning each job to ensure consistently perfect results. But after his latest job goes wrong after a fateful near-miss, he finds himself at the centre of an international manhunt battling off not only his employers, but his darker tendencies.
If there is one director who has a signature look and style to his films that is instantly recognizable, it is Fincher. His films are characterized by a tense atmosphere created by beautiful cinematography that fully uses light and darkness throughout and a strong musical score, usually from his frequent collaborators Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The film is plunged by darkness, both thematically and visually. Whether it be the use of shadows in Erik Messerschmidt’s cinematography that helps to bring to life the shadowy world that Fassbender’s character lives in, or the muted colour palette that creates a bleak world that matches the danger and stakes of the story, this is a mesmerizing visual experience that embodies the tone of the story at every turn. Reznor and Ross’s musical score is excellent, creating a tension filled soundscape, avoiding traditional musical themes but instead using sound to match Fassbender’s character’s internal state and bolster the life or death situations he finds himself in. As with all of FIncher’s films, his direction is stellar, creating a meticulously crafted film on all fronts that is technically flawless, living in perfect harmony with the meticulously and calculated planning of the film’s main character. There truly is no better director to bring this story to life than Fincher.
For a film based around an assassin, there is not as much violence as you would think there is. The story is a neo-noir, following our unnamed assassin as he seeks revenge after a job gone wrong. While there are some great action set pieces, notably the job in the first act that sets the events of the story into motion and a physical altercation near the end of the film’s second act that rivals the brutality of the John Wick franchise with every hit thrown, the film is more concerned with the execution of his job and the internal workings of our titular character. Never for a second does Andrew Kevin Walker’s screenplay fail to engage its audience, as it is well written, finding the right balance between the line of work of our main character and his internal struggle. It’s exactly the type of story that audiences have come to associate with Fincher’s filmography: one that is engaging, thought provoking and intense. Though, I do think the story could have been streamlined to create better pacing, especially during the film’s second act which I found slightly dragged at times.
Fassbender has turned in excellent performance after excellent performance over the course of his career, and the role of the film’s unnamed Killer is no exception. It’s a silent role, relying on Fassbender’s physical movements to bring to life this character which plays to Fassbender's strength, and he is perfect from start to finish. Menacing with his affectionless screen presence, Fassbender fully encompasses this dangerous and highly skilled individual in every frame of the film. His narration lets the audience into the meticulously methodical mind of the killer, as well as introducing them to the internal philosophical views on humanity that he has developed after years of his line of work. It’s a riveting performance that carries the entire film, creating one of the most deadly cinematic assassins we have ever witnessed, and one I would love to see go up against Keanu Reeves’s John Wick. The supporting cast have very limited roles as this is largely a solo character piece for Fassbender, but both Tilda Swinton and Charles Parnell are great in their moments, making for excellent scene partners for Fassbender.
There is no denying that David Fincher and Michael Fassbender make a killer director-actor combination, and I truly hope that The Killer is the first of many great collaborations from them. It may not be full of wall to wall action that some audiences are expecting from it, but Fincher has crafted an all engaging neo-noir thriller that is certain to entertain. With Fincher in the director’s chair, The Killer comes to life on the big screen with technical excellence, stunning cinematography and a great musical score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, but it is the sublime, cold and calculated lead performance of Michael Fassbender that is going to make this one a hit with audiences.