David Fincher, famous for his suspenseful, psychologically deep, and visually striking movies like Se7en, Gone Girl, and The Social Network, tries something very different in The Killer. This recent release moves away from his usual action-packed thrillers and goes for a more thoughtful style. Even though the film still has Fincher’s trademark look and filmmaking skill, it faces challenges in delivering an exciting story and interesting characters, which are usually his strengths.
In The Killer, we follow a lone assassin, played by Michael Fassbender, who’s on a mission that goes wrong and puts a loved one in danger. His journey for revenge is divided into chapters, each focusing on a different target he wants to eliminate. Among the supporting cast, Kerry O’Malley shines as Delores, a secretary caught in the chaos. Tilda Swinton also makes a memorable appearance as another skilled assassin in the chapter titled ‘The Expert.’ The prospect of a clash between these skilled assassins was exciting, but it didn’t happen, leaving a feeling of unfulfilled potential. Still, Tilda Swinton’s brief appearance adds depth and complexity to the story, hinting at the assassin’s role in a larger network of killers.
Unfortunately, the central character, The Killer, lacks the depth and complexity often found in Fincher’s protagonists. While Fassbender’s performance is technically proficient, it falls short in imbuing the character with the emotional depth necessary to carry the film. The Killer’s motivations and background remain unclear, leaving the audience with a protagonist they can neither empathize with nor rally behind.
You can still see Fincher’s signature visual style in The Killer, but it supports the more subdued narrative rather than taking the spotlight. The movie’s muted colors and slow pacing create an atmosphere of isolation and introspection, mirroring the assassin’s inner struggles. Yet, this approach also contributes to the film’s overall lack of excitement, lacking the suspense that usually comes with Fincher’s thrillers.
The film’s score, composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, frequent collaborators with Fincher, brings an eerie and atmospheric touch to the story, underlining the inner struggles of the assassin. The soundtrack cleverly includes songs from The Smiths, which serve as a recurring motif throughout the film. This adds a slight touch of humor, as the melancholic lyrics of The Smiths’ songs contrast with the violent world of the assassin. In this regard, the film’s score and music choices are truly highlights of the movie.
However, the film’s most prominent problem lies in its screenplay, penned by Andrew Kevin Walker (Sleepy Hollow, The Wolfman). The dialogue feels uninspired and clichéd, overly reliant on familiar tropes and falling short of capturing the sharp wit and psychological insight typically found in Fincher’s collaborations with writers like Aaron Sorkin and Gillian Flynn. The film’s reliance on clichés and lack of originality make it challenging for it to distinguish itself in the crowded field of revenge thrillers.
As a fan of Fincher, I have to admit The Killer left me somewhat disappointed. It’s not the first time; Mank, his previous film, also didn’t quite hit the mark, which has me a bit concerned about the direction he’s taking as a filmmaker in the Netflix era. While it’s reassuring that his distinctive style and technical proficiency remain intact, it’s a shame that The Killer doesn’t feel fully realized. Despite these disappointments, I still hold out hope that Fincher’s next project will bring back the magic that made him one of my favorite directors.