The Killer Fincher: From the somber desolation of “Alien 3” and “Seven,” to the satirical cynicism of “Fight Club” and the epic futility of “Zodiac,” to the relentless bitterness of “The Social Network,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” and “Gone Girl,” David Fincher’s cinema has always carried the heart of noir. Therefore, it’s no surprise that he wholeheartedly embraces the bleak in “The Killer,” a contract killer thriller adapted from the French graphic novel series by Alexis “Matz” Nolent and Luc Jacamon. This film lovingly pays homage to one of the genre’s modern masterpieces, Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1967 classic, “Le Samouraï.” It tells the story of a cold, methodical assassin driven by a strict code of conduct, and it’s crafted with the same meticulous precision that defines the director’s body of work. In many ways, it can be considered the ultimate embodiment of Fincher’s style and perspective caustic, unyielding, and darkly humorous.
Like its illustrious Melville predecessor, Fincher’s “The Killer” (hitting theaters on October 27 and arriving on Netflix on November 10) revolves around a professional hitman (portrayed by Michael Fassbender) who acknowledges the void at the center of the universe because he’s a void himself. Clad in sunglasses and a tan hat and jacket, Fassbender’s character personifies discipline, detachment, and unwavering ritual. As he states in his flat inner monologue, which serves as the primary mode of communication for his character, he believes in procedure, preparation, and attention to detail, not in fate, karma, or a higher power. Guided by a mantra he recites throughout his journey, he trusts no one, never strays from his plan, and avoids empathy as it’s seen as a vulnerability. “My process is purely logistical,” he declares, and his key to success, put bluntly, is that he “doesn’t care.”
Fassbender is the perfect actor to embody this emotionless killer, radiating the chillingly rational, ruthless emptiness that characterized his roles in films like “Shame,” “Prometheus,” and “Alien: Covenant.” In his hands, the killer becomes a machine that thrives by adhering to his principles and routines. Quoting Popeye, he succinctly defines himself as, “I am what I am.” Yet, Fincher understands that the essence of noir lies in the tension and often, the tragic consequences that result when such a character deviates from their chosen path. Thus, after an initial sequence where this assassin articulates his core philosophy while preparing to eliminate a high-profile target in a Parisian penthouse, the script by “Seven” writer Andrew Kevin Walker throws a wrench into his meticulously laid plans he misses his shot.
Reuniting with cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt (“Mank,” “Mindhunter”), Fincher handles action with surgical precision. The camera movements are deliberate, the staging is meticulous, and lens flares split the frame sharply while shadows and window fog create a stark contrast on Fassbender’s visage. Aesthetically, “The Killer” mirrors its protagonist’s cleanliness and efficiency. This harmony extends to the electronic score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, which features ominous tones and heartbeat-like thuds, reflecting the killer’s ability to keep his pulse in check. Fincher’s clinical approach abandons the romanticism often associated with Melville’s work, yet it aligns seamlessly with the material, just like Fassbender’s donning of gloves before getting down to business.
“The Killer” truly comes alive in the wake of the hitman’s unimaginable blunder. His retreat is swift but executed with unflinching efficiency. When he returns to his hideout in the Dominican Republic, he finds that unwelcome guests have severely harmed his girlfriend Magdala (Sophie Charlotte). Although he preaches the necessity of indifference for success, he breaks his own code and seeks out his handler Hodges (Charles Parnell from “Top Gun: Maverick”), a New Orleans lawyer who he believes possesses information about the killers sent to eliminate him. When Hodges proves uncooperative, Fassbender’s character does what he does best a series of long-form sequences that prioritize his methodical steps, reflecting the same precision seen in the storage units housing his tools, his neatly folded clothes, his organized belongings, and the systematic way he deals with his problems.
“The Killer” is divided into chapters, following the assassin’s quest for vengeance across Florida, New York, and Chicago. At each stop, it showcases Fincher’s sardonic sense of humor. Fassbender’s deadpan narration is central to the film’s wit, along with his character’s affection for The Smiths (whose morose tracks feature prominently on the soundtrack) and his habit of using sitcom-inspired aliases (Sam Malone, George Jefferson, Archibald Bunker) for his various credit cards and plane tickets.
The film’s humor stems from its deliberately affectless approach, with Fassbender pondering various aspects of modern life (McDonald’s, security cameras, Airbnb, WeWork) as an expression of his keen perception and strategic acumen, as well as his overall anonymity. This is particularly evident when he recites a series of clichés like “dog eat dog,” “kill or be killed,” and “survival of the fittest,” underlining his calculated emptiness. In the realm of contemporary cinema, he truly embodies the archetypal hollow man.
Fincher puts Fassbender’s contract killer through the paces, featuring a fierce showdown with an ultra-violent adversary (Sala Baker) that ranks as one of the standout action sequences of 2023. This is followed by a whiskey-tasting meal with an opponent (Tilda Swinton) that contrasts sharply with his previous encounter, save for the ultimate outcome. There’s no depth to Fassbender’s character, and certainly no remorse. The same applies to “The Killer,” a film that simultaneously thrills and amuses through its carefully calibrated rhythms and Fincher’s existentialism, reminiscent of Melville, where systems of thought and action provide safety, satisfaction, and, above all, a reason to exist.
While “The Killer” remains spiritually faithful to “Le Samouraï” for most of its concise 118-minute runtime, it deviates from the classic noir fatalism at its conclusion. Fincher’s protagonist makes it clear that “the only life path is the one behind you.” This twist transforms “The Killer” into a uniquely sardonic creation, where survival isn’t determined by the fittest, but by the truly soulless.
Our Reader’s Queries
Is The Killer on Netflix a good movie?
The Killer receives rave reviews for its technical brilliance and flawless execution. It’s a self-aware piece of work where Fincher delves into his own reputation as a meticulous director and exposes the vulnerable side beneath the facade. The film is a testament to his mastery of the craft, showcasing a level of perfection that is both impressive and slightly tongue-in-cheek.
What is the new movie The Killer about?
Alone and freezing, a man waits in the shadows, calculating and unburdened by morals or remorse, for his next victim. But as time goes by, he fears he’s losing his sanity, and maybe even his composure.
Is Netflix The Killer based on a true story?
David Fincher’s latest Netflix sensation, The Killer, draws its inspiration from a French graphic novel. After narrowly escaping a potential catastrophe, a professional assassin (portrayed by Michael Fassbender) embarks on a global pursuit. Along the way, he discovers that his adversaries extend beyond just his employers, as he grapples with internal conflicts.
Is the movie The Killer Out on Netflix?
Catch The Killer now available for streaming on Netflix.