Fassbender slays in The Killer

Michael Fassbender in David Fincher’s, “The Killer,” photo from movie trailer

By Gabriel Lucich

Have you ever wondered what goes on in the mind of a trained killer? Well, acclaimed director David Fincher has in his new film, “The Killer,” explores  what those  thoughts and motivations might be. For those not familiar, Fincher directed “Fight Club,” “Gone Girl,” “Zodiac,” “Seven,” and a host of other now-classic films known for their dark subject matter, near-flawless scripts and impeccable filmmaking.

Irish-German actor Michael Fassbender, famous as Magneto to X-Men fans, plays our stoic protagonist in this thinking-person’s thriller. His contemplative, analytical inner thoughts are narrated to the audience as if they are meant for him alone. Think Dexter Morgan, but far from Miami, and handsomely paid for his kills. 

He is the calmest hitman ever, practicing yoga, even giving himself helpful affirmations during the course of planning the kills. We don’t know his real name, or any of his background, just what happens to him over a few days.

“The Killer” follows our contract killer through what appears to be the only hiccup in his flawless career. On an assassination job in Paris, the hit is bungled when the bullet, intended for the mark, kills a hired dominatrix instead, causing the target to flee.

A detail I loved were the names on his identification and credit cards. 

Every fake name was a reference to a classic sitcom character: Archibald Bunker from “All in the Family,” Oscar Madison and Felix Unger from “The Odd Couple,” Sam Malone from “Cheers” and several others. Sometimes it’s the little things that matter.

The next 90 minutes are filled with his own investigation into the people behind the home invasion, as well as the elimination and disposal of every perceived threat to him.

Tilda Swinton is masterful as The Expert, a fellow gun-for-hire, and plays a part far too small for her considerable talent. Her assassin is steely and fatalistic, acknowledging her part in the attack on the Killer’s Dominican compound, but denying any of the assault on his girlfriend. She embodies the character, exuding snakelike energy to the end. We are prepared for her to strike back at any moment. Well played, Tilda, well played.

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of  Nine Inch Nails scored the film, as they have for most of Fincher’s work over the last 20 years. Reznor’s moody atmospherics, punctuated by songs from The Smiths’ many albums, create an eerily pleasant contradiction of sounds. The music somehow lightens the mood at the darkest and most sinister moments of the film. A great example is “This Charming Man,” played by the Killer as he discreetly disposes of body parts around New Orleans, it makes the scene feel like the Killer is just running errands, instead of doing this grisly work.

Fincher saturates the screen with color, then eliminates it to make his points. The camera work captures every angle needed to push the story. There are few filmmakers alive who show the attention to detail that Fincher shows in his work. Everything is considered, from the grand scale of cities like Paris, the most minute movements of the actors, down to the smallest lens flare on a street light.

His films are incredible to view, but we are rarely fully prepared for what he wants us to see. Watch this movie.

9.75 out of 10.

Gabriel Lucich