In the picture

November 19, 2023

Based on the graphic novel by Alexis Nolent, The Killer is about an assassin on the hunt from his past and present and executed with precision. Spearheaded by David Fincher, it has all the elements that define the auteur’s dark and moody take on cinema.

In the picture

The Killer ☆☆☆

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Tilda Swinton,
Charles Parnell, Arliss Howard

Direction: David Fincher


nnerving background score opens the film before Michael Fassbender (known simply as ‘The Killer’) appears before the audience. Looking outside a window and talking to himself, it is haunting and deliberately designed in this method by director David Fincher so the audience can hear his inner monologue. Marked by a dark, dilapidated space, it creates a sense of eeriness and loneliness that appears gripping.

As ‘The Killer’ talks, we learn it is the first chapter and he is in Paris (probably to kill someone). He knows how Paris awakens as he compares it to Berlin, Damascus, Tokyo and says: “Slowly” before paraphrasing Popeye the sailor, “I am what I am.”

True to David Fincher’s method of fashioning a protagonist, The Killer admits that he isn’t special. “He is apart.”

His view of life is philosophically that of a pessimist.

Listening to ‘Well I Wonder’ by The Smiths in one ear, he continues his inner monologue and you can’t help but feel engaged by every word. “Skepticism is often confused by cynicism,” he goes on.

The writing is so good that as he gets ready for the task ahead, you find yourself connected to his stream of consciousness. Of course, even as he talks, it is obvious that he is up to no good.

Only when he is walking the streets as a German tourist, we hear his phone conversation that appears normal enough and he is asked to call back if nothing uneventful happens in the next 24 hours. What is the event that is supposed to take place is not exactly clear, at least not at first. He finds a bench and sits there, looking at a building with a doorman. His inner monologue goes on as he ponders about human nature, Airbnb, Dateline, cornerstone of civilization, tunnel vision, U.S. Military complex. It becomes obvious that he is an assassin when he talks about jobs that gave him room for killing creatively, such as forging accidents, gardening poisonings and so on. To this man, sleep deprivation is nothing short of torture. He is back in the building we found him in and as he sets up his sniper rifle and looks across the same building, it is perhaps because his mark has arrived.

Everything said makes us believe he will hit his target but he kills the wrong person and is on the move. He is neither Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne nor is he Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills from The Taken franchise. All we have are his thoughts and they are on the run like him because he has made a mistake. Employers are angry that he missed but during a flight, he notices what feels out of the ordinary.

Now begins chapter two: Dominican Republic, which is the hideout but if we believed him in the first chapter, the second is where we learn the unanticipated. Someone is hurt because of him. Someone who means something to him.

Paced evenly, the story changes from here. He is the target from being the one who is targeting.

“Anticipate, don’t improvise,” he says. And the game of cat and mouse has begun.

To give up the story from here would be killing the pleasure of watching the film. But here’s why it is a good film to watch: it is directed by David Fincher. When you’re watching a film by an auteur like David Fincher, certain elements emerge almost immediately. You might, on the basis of synopsis, find the idea of yet another protagonist on an international manhunt to be a harbinger of an older and drifting idea.

After all, we do live in the age of John Wick films, superhero films (from Marvel to DC Comics) to a variation of the same in Mission Impossible films, and Fast and the Furious sequels. But when an auteur takes that idea, something else appears.

If Christopher Nolan uses time and non-linear structure as elements that make it easy to recognize every film he has made, the same can be said about David Fincher. You can identify almost every David Fincher work due to a moody, dark aesthetic and an alienation in terms of characterization. The camera choreography also stays uninterrupted.

All of his trademark elements are present in The Killer.

He also outwitted other directors by using Michael Fassbender as his lead actor because Fassbender travels between commercial cinema (X-Men films, Steve Jobs) to non-commercial (Hunger, The Light Between Oceans) with ease.

As a result, The Killer is a good, smart film to watch in a time when too much content has created a sense of oversaturation.

Brad Pitt, who was Fincher’s first choice for the role (quite possibly due to their collaborations over the years), should be kicking himself for not taking on this role. As for The Killer, it is not the idea but the slick execution that is so appealing. Watch this one. Netflix has finally made a smart action thriller.

Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection

In the picture