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June 23, 2024

The Killer: David Fincher’s new take on empathy

By MARIANA FERREIRA | November 16, 2023

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CRAIG DUFFY / CC BY-NC 2.0

David Fincher, the director of The Killer, is the creative mind behind movies like Fight Club, Gone Girl and Se7en.

Does it feel like every new Netflix release somehow makes it to No. 1 in “Movies in the U.S.” on Netflix? Conveniently, yes. Does every single one of them even deserve to be there? Absolutely not. Will I continue to watch every single one of them? Yes, especially if they’re by David Fincher.

Fincher is a well-known director in the film world for his reflective and authentic adaptations, some of which include Gone Girl, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and my personal favorite, The Social Network. 

This adaptation is no different. Derived from a French comic novel of the same name, The Killer follows the story of a meticulous, unnamed assassin who makes a mistake during a job and has to face the consequences for his failure. 

The acting is refreshingly organic. While the story itself deals with tough (and hopefully unrelatable) topics of murder, vengeance and fear, the actors carry themselves in such a natural way that these elements blend seamlessly into the rather tumultuous story. 

The portrayal of the main character by Michael Fassbender is the highlight of the film; this is not only because we spend most of the film with Fassbender but also because of his stellar acting. Fassbender carries himself in a way that makes The Killer feel secluded from the world but also allows the audience to know exactly why he chooses to do what he does. 

Despite his coldly perceptive manner, we are sometimes given glances of humanity, which let us know much more about the character and contrast against a straightforward and frigid narration. 

We don’t know the nitty-gritty, specific details of The Killer’s life which, in modern films, we are used to being spoon-fed. This is because it is often hard for the audience to feel empathy for a character if we cannot connect to them through their life story. Fassbender’s masterful work achieves this connection without distracting from the storyline, and he makes it look easy. 

Academy Award winner Erik Messerschmidt can be credited for the project’s balanced, clean and story-driven cinematography. Messerschmidt employs clever panning, the occasional shaky camera to incite tension and dark and light to highlight the character’s internal conflicts — essential components for a movie whose plot-driven narrative can sometimes glance over opportunities to focus on the main character and his struggles throughout the film. 

For a man with a lot of rules, which we are regularly reminded of, The Killer breaks them regularly. The unpredictability of his character doesn’t come from what he does but how he does it. The film doesn't follow a classic plot structure but instead carries us through twists and turns and relies on the curiosity of the audience about the main character’s next actions. 

But what is arguably the best part of this film is its length. Fincher takes us back to the good ol’ days when you didn’t need to sit and watch a movie for three and a half hours (I’m looking at you, Killers of the Flower Moon). Instead, he chooses to only show what is necessary to the main narrative. That’s it. Only two hours. Yet, it doesn’t make the viewer feel unsatisfied by the end. Imagine that. 

It can be argued that as a main character, The Killer reminds the audience a lot of David Fincher himself. No, no, Fincher is not a murderer. But think about it: The Killer is a meticulous contract killer who is simultaneously calculating and incredibly unpredictable. In comparison, Fincher is a chronic adaptation machine whose storylines, while foreseeable (especially by those who have read the narratives he has adapted), still make sure to surprise viewers at every turn.

If you get squeamish easily, maybe skip this movie. But for those of you looking for a solid, thrilling action movie that doesn’t take the whole day to finish, this one's for you.


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