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The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

‘The Killer,’ and the top four David Fincher movies

The Killer stalking his target (Photo courtesy Netflix Flims)

Harkening back to his thriller roots, legendary director David Fincher returns this Friday with his new film “The Killer,” starring Michael Fassbender. Based upon the French graphic novel of the same name written by Alexis Nolent, “The Killer” is an incredibly lean and precise action thriller that is all killer and no filler (pun intended). 

Releasing Nov. 10 on Netflix “The Killer” continues Fincher’s now long-running partnership with the service, which started with his development of the series “House of Cards” in 2013, continued with the series “Mindhunter” in 2017 and previously culminated with his 2020 film “Mank.” 

The film opens with Fassbender’s titular killer going through any normal job of his. According to him, he has never messed up a job. Suitors know this and he gets paid handsomely because of it, and also gets extremely high-profile targets. His target in this opening sequence remains unnamed, but it can be inferred through the bodyguards, fancy hotel room and dominatrix that he is a high-level political figure. 

The killer goes through his seemingly typical pre-kill routine. He stalks out his target for a few days, does yoga and listens to The Smiths. This scene is also the beginning of Fassbender’s ongoing narration. Here, he talks to the audience about the mundaneness of his job. How tedious he needs to be to achieve success. How his lack of “giving a fuck” makes him perfect for this line of work. How if he gets this hit, he’ll be batting 1.000. 

And then he screws up. 

The killer goes on the run and begins attempting to cover his tracks. After a thrilling sequence through Paris, the killer returns to his home in the Dominican Republic and finds it thrashed. From here, the movie becomes a revenge-thriller. 

“The Killer” is a great study on hypocrisy, male-ego and a man so stripped from reality and so honed in on his own contrived approach to life that he completely implodes in on all the rules he set for himself within seconds when something actually challenges him. The film features incredibly tight action sequences, great performances from Fassbender and Charles Parnell, and a particularly electric performance from Tilda Swinton, who in my opinion steals the show with just one scene.

Many will claim that this is a “return to form” for Fincher after the perceived diversion that was his last film, “Mank.” While I think that “Mank” completely maintains Fincher’s core themes of obsession, perfectionism and how we unintentionally strain ourselves from what is important and the people we care about. However, it is in an entirely different genre than Fincher has typically operated within, being a historical drama rather than Fincher’s typical thriller. 

But David Fincher’s worst movie is another filmmaker’s best. Even “Alien 3.” But, in celebration of “The Killer,” let’s take a look at what I think are his four best. Fincher is arguably my favorite filmmaker of all time. I think that his films (and his television show, “Mindhunter”) are some of the most important pieces of art of the last 30 years. 

  1. Se7en

Fincher’s first hit, “Se7en” stars Morgan Freeman in his first significant leading role, and Brad Pitt in his breakout performance. “Se7en” received one Oscar nomination, for Best Film Editing (Richard Francis-Bruce) but ultimately lost to “Apollo 13” (Mike Hill and Daniel P. Hanley). “Se7en” was the first collaboration between Fincher and writer Andrew Kevin Walker, who received a British Academy Award nomination for his screenplay. Walker and Fincher re-teamed for “The Killer.” “Se7en” essentially sparks the crime-media craze of the 21st century, completely re-inventing how gruesome and tactical a detective story could get, while still maintaining mass appeal. 

Before “The Killer,” “Se7en” was Fincher’s film I had most recently rewatched. Freeman and Pitt are truly next level here, both of their characters on polar opposite sides of their careers having to deal with the most important case of their lives. Their dynamic explodes off of the script and onto the screen. The unnamed town full of trash on the streets and rain incessantly falling from the sky makes our characters think there is nothing left for them besides the case and each other. Also, I would like to shout out Gwenyth Paltrow for serving as the lone heartbeat in an otherwise incredibly dreary and dread-filled movie. 

  1. The Social Network

Lauded by many, and myself, as one of the defining films of the century, “The Social Network” is one of the great modern biopics. Coming right at the peak of the Facebook craze, “The Social Network” tells the origin of the social media platform, while showing what it cost for everyone involved, notably Mark Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg in one of the most inspired casting choices ever. Also, in the ensemble with Eisenberg is Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer and Rashida Jones, with cameos from Rooney Mara and Dakota Johnson. 

“The Social Network” is the perfect pairing between Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin, who was previously known for his work on “The West Wing” and “A Few Good Men,” and would go on to write one of my favorite movies “Moneyball.” Sorkin’s affinity for writing dialogue at a million miles an hour, full of jargon and dry humor, mixed with Fincher’s perfectionism and ability to get the absolute best out of his actors made for a perfect pairing for a movie about one of the most egotistical, yet important, figures of our time. 

  1. Gone Girl

Absolutely iconic. “Gone Girl” is one of the three best movies of the 2010s in my opinion. “Gone Girl” serves as a dual announcement: The announcement of Rosamund Pike with arguably the best performance of the 2010s, and the re-announcement of Ben Affleck as one of our great movie stars. For a two and a half hour movie, “Gone Girl” is intensely gripping. It’s borderline impossible to tear your eyes away from the screen. One of the most visually stunning, tightly written, and edge-of-your-seat intense movies ever made. 

“Gone Girl” also sports maybe the best executed twist of the century, which leads into one of my favorite scenes ever made. Not to spoil too much for those still not initiated, but the twist followed by the “Cool girl” monologue is one of the best 10-minutes ever put to film. From there the movie crescendos and builds up to a breaking point that only Fincher could properly maneuver and execute on the level that he does. An absolute masterpiece. 

  1. Zodiac

On the right day, this is my favorite movie ever made. For my money, it is the best movie of the century. “Zodiac” is Fincher’s magnum opus, and an absolute pillar in American film-making. Featuring a ludacris ensemble of Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Chloe Sevigny, John Carroll Lynch, Dermot Mulroney, Clea DuVall and Donal Logue among others, Fincher crafts one of the great crime stories, obsession stories and historical odysseys ever made.  

Thinking about the many phenomenal sequences in this movie, the opening Fourth of July sequence, the Lake Berryessa killing, the cab car killing, the news interview and a basement scene all stand out as some of the most well-made and horrifying scenes ever put to the screen. 

“There’s more than one way to lose your life to a killer,” reads the tagline for “Zodiac.” Fincher has said that this is a highly personal film for him, having grown up in San Francisco during the killings. While loosely based on Robert Graysmith’s investigative novel of the same name, Fincher conducted his own obsessive investigation into the killings for this film, with the final product serving as a presentation of he and Graysmith’s conclusions. 

With some of the best performances of all time and one of the best scripts ever written, “Zodiac” makes you just as much of an obsessive about the movie, as Graysmith and Fincher were about the case. 

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