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The Killer

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

It's been nine years since we've been able to immerse into a true David Fincher thriller. He's back. His explosively brilliant new film THE KILLER is everything you want and then some, a "Dexter/Day of the Jackal" deep dive into a professional killer.

As the film opens, our nameless assassin is holed up inside a WeWork location in downtown Paris. He's quietly observing his current target across the boulevard, who appears to command at least the top floor of an expensive, old-world hotel.

Michael Fassbender appears in his first film in four years as The Killer. Each of his movements is carefully planned. Sleep is a luxury savored in small doses. He monitors his heart rate and yoga sessions while watching the neighboring flat through a rifle scope.

Fincher's sound design is flawless, as is the cinematography by Erik Messerschmidt (Mank, Manhunter). Fincher immerses you into the day and night sounds of Paris, while his camera follows The Killer's scope from room to room, front door to cafe, popping across the wet streets like Jimmy Stewart's snooping camera in Hitchcock's "Rear Window".

Fassbinder's lethal character narrates the story to us, weaving through the quiet moments in what appears to be his inner monologue. Or is it a confessional? As the killer chooses his actual words in life very carefully, the narration is our only view into his thoughts.

When the assassination goes wrong, the film explodes into a flurry of non-stop action. Watching the Killer cover his tracks is fascinating.

Like the excellent 1973 thriller, "The Day of the Jackal", his everyday routines appear mundane, quiet. While that film spent two hours getting to the assassination, Fincher spends only about the first 20 minutes getting to the attempt.

We're then whisked off on a globe hopping adventure as The Killer returns to his enclave in the Dominican Republic, realizes he's compromised and then begins a lethal quest to eliminate any collateral damage from his failed job. To say more would be criminal, let Fincher pull you down those avenues.

One of the my favorite Fincher films, and also one of my favorite films of all time is his 1995 thriller, "Se7en". Andrew Kevin Walker, who wrote that film, writes this one as well. Adapting the graphic novel by Alexis Nolent and Luc Jacamon, Walker creates distinct chapters that take place around the world. Each one may as well be another planet, as Fincher offers up New Orleans and Florida in ways you've never seen them before. Balanced with the narration, you're half laughing at The Killer's descriptions, while Fincher sinks below the tourist maps to much darker parts of town.

You'll recognize the Fincher-isms that we've all come to love.

Time jumps. A journey from the airport in which no camera shot lasts longer than three seconds, yet you as the viewer never get lost.

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross provide the music score, a pulsing, modern take that gets under your skin and stays there. No one plays with swirling spatial sound like Reznor and Ross and they add to their growing legacy of film scores (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) with another seductive, propulsive score that pulls you in and never lets go.

The supporting cast is strong.

Tilda Swinton is The Expert.

Arliss Howard is The Client.

Charles Parnell is The Lawyer.

All are great.

But they all are in service of Fassbender as The Killer. He's excellent.

He's the slow burning core at the center. I loved that I couldn't quite figure out what his next steps were going to be, or where he'd draw the line.

Only in the final moments did I realize I actually already knew the answer to those questions.

I loved his aliases used on credit cards and airline tickets. Every child of the seventies will.

No one creates a modern thriller like David Fincher.

He's precise, intelligent, violent and creates a fully-modern take on the suspense film in cinema. A Hitchcock for our time, he deserves to stand alongside Hitch as a visionary. Since the 80's I have loved Brian De Palma as a modern Hitchcock, but his films always felt like tasty, nasty homages to the master, loaded with more graphic blood and sex than Hitch would ever have felt comfortable with in his day.

But for me, Fincher stands as the more complete filmmaker, creating unbearable tension by introducing a killer into our everyday life. It all feels as logical and ridiculously unpredictable as life itself. We're just collateral damage to the events he depicts. As in "Se7en", the events in motion cannot be contained.

Fincher has added another masterpiece to his film legacy with THE KILLER.

It slays without hesitation or remorse, earning an A+.

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