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The Killer review: Michael Fassbender is an unsettling hitman in David Fincher’s gripping thriller

The highly-anticipated film features David Fincher’s meticulous style and attention to detail in every frame

The Killer review: Michael Fassbender is an unsettling hitman in David Fincher’s gripping thriller

Last Updated: 01.59 AM, Nov 11, 2023


Story: A hitman on a mission in Paris botches an assassination attempt, sending his life into disarray. His client demands that he be killed, and a person he cares about is caught in the chaos. As a result, the unnamed hitman embarks on a path of vengeance against those who crossed him.


Review: A hitman on a revenge mission and leaving bodies in their wake is one of the most overused plot lines in films today, owing to the immense popularity of the John Wick films. However, Fincher has borrowed this thread and created a unique iteration with his signature style. In many ways, The Killer is one of Fincher’s most easily distinguishable works and it is unlike any other film in the same genre. The film relies on action sequences only when absolutely necessary, and it is more along the lines of Jason Bourne rather than John Wick.


The Killer opens with the botched assassination mission, and much like Fassbender’s lead character, the scenes are slow and methodical. The narrative employs an inner monologue for Fassbender’s character as he preps for any mission. The film uses the setting, the background, and this inner monologue to carry the narrative forward. There is very little dialogue in the film apart from the incredible scenes involving Tilda Swinton. The opening scene in particular leans on this plot device to establish Fassbender’s character. Within minutes his modus operandis and mental make-up become evident. If one were to expect a reformed hitman with redeeming qualities, they’d be sadly mistaken. The ‘killer’ explains it best in the film by quoting Popeye the sailor man; “I am what I am.”


Fassbender is outstanding in these scenes reminding the audience of his incredible range. The only major action sequence in the film is when he comes face to face with another hitman, who is simply known as the Brute. The scene is well-choreographed making for pulsating sequences. And despite the lead character lacking any redeeming qualities, as mentioned earlier, one will feel compelled to root for him, considering he is up against someone who is more unempathetic than he is.


The film is a more grounded take on the genre, devoid of high-speed car chases or riveting gun fights. Instead, it features a more psychological aesthetic, and possibly the introduction of a very different kind of protagonist only Fincher can conjure. The auteur is renowned for being a perfectionist when crafting his scenes and he has outdone himself in The Killer. However, it is not one of his best works, considering he has helmed iconic films such as Fight Club, Seven, Gone Girl, Zodiac, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and arguably Netflix’s greatest TV show Mindhunter.


Verdict: The Killer is a taut action thriller that perfectly captures the essence of David Fincher’s signature filmmaking style. Michael Fassbender excels as the flawed anti-hero, showcasing why is among the best in the business. While the film offers relatively limited action sequences, the scenes that do feature them are simply riveting.


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