A practitioner of impeccably crafted cinema in which shot compositions and editing transitions evoke greater feelings than the fate of characters is right where he needs to be in his latest movie. David Fincher’s The Killer extracts the maximum atmospherics possible out of the tedium involved in murder.
The 119-minute thriller is out on Netflix. Based on the French graphic novel series of the same name, The Killer has the stylistic flourishes of French-language crime classics without the moral undertow of these films. If the Le Samourai-like sequences of the man known only as The Assassin are dipped in grey-green dourness, the ruminative voiceover has a Gallic flavour too.
“When was my last quiet drowning,” broods the man known only as The Assassin as he awaits his latest target. Despite planning the hit to the last detail, The Assassin (Michael Fassbender) botches the assignment. The retribution that follows puts The Assassin on a collision course with the men and women who have disturbed his hard-earned equilibrium.
Darkly melancholic songs by the British band The Smiths supply a layer of emotion to The Assassin’s calculated, ruthless and relentless vendetta. Among his targets is The Expert (Tilda Swinton), who narrates a story about a hunter and a bear that might make sense of The Assassin’s opaque personality, except that it doesn’t.
Talk is cheap; the plotting of the murders is precise; the ways to die many and spectacular. The all-show-and-some-tell movie has richly atmospheric cinematography by Erik Messerschmidt, razor-sharp editing by Kirk Baxter, and a riveting central performance by Michael Fassbender.
As stone-cold as the graves to which The Assassin’s victims are destined, The Killer maintains a morbid fascination all the way until its denouement. Fincher’s talent for staging, storytelling rhythm, and haunting visuals finds expression in one of The Assassin’s banal pronouncements: “Avoid being memorable. Keep calm, keep moving.”