When It Comes to Thrillers, David Fincher Is Still 'The Killer'

Directed by David Fincher

Starring Michael Fassbender, Arliss Howard, Charles Parnell, Gabriel Polanco, Kerry O'malley, Emiliano Pernía, Sala Baker, Sophie Charlotte, Tilda Swinton

Photo courtesy of Netflix

BY Rachel HoPublished Oct 27, 2023

It's strange to consider a movie like The Killer as a "warm blanket" film, but there's a reassuring comfort that comes with watching a David Fincher thriller, even when it's not his best. Few can dance with Fincher in this genre — that cold rhythm he attaches to suspense and violence offers a musicality and artistry that remains his unique calling card. Sure, he's made little side journeys with modern day classics like The Social Network; undoubtedly though, the thriller genre is where Fincher belongs, and The Killer is our welcome reminder.

Michael Fassbender leads The Killer as an unnamed assassin who viewers meet on a job in Paris. Through his patience, preparation and placid voiceover, we're immediately brought into his world with little to no introduction. Unfortunately for him, the hit goes sideways and with that brings professional consequences at the hand of his employer. 

We aren't given much of a profile for the Killer. He's clearly good at his job (despite what happens in Paris), and a collected person with just the right degree of detachment. But as with all cinematic assassins, a line exists — and, as is protocol, it's reached when loved ones uninvolved with the work are in the crosshairs. For the Killer, though, even when that Rubicon is crossed, the revenge is matter-of-fact and methodical.

The Killer continues to feed into our expectations for a Fincher thriller: stylish and humorous while also being a thinkpiece. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross compose a score that quite literally takes us from beat to beat of the story in such a way that's entirely noticeable, yet seamlessly weaved into the fabric of the film. The cinematography of Erik Messerschmidt recalls epic paintings that somehow vibrate throughout the film. 

For all that the aesthetics add, it's the thinkpiece portion of The Killer that intrigues the most. At the beginning of the film, The Killer comments on the challenge of being in a job that necessitates being unseen in a world that sees everything; his solution is to be forgettable. Ironically, our current technological culture, which promotes recording every second of our day, also allows for a total disconnect from human connection. 

Admittedly, the initial appearance of a product search on Amazon made my eyes slightly roll, but put together with the digs at Airbnb and WeWork, and the anonymity of Postmates and faceless membership signups at the gym, Fincher creates compelling commentary. Perhaps unsurprisingly from the director who depicted Facebook's inception, Fincher's use of technology punctuates its natural inclusion in our lives while emphasizing its downfalls without judgment. 

As Fincher thrillers go, The Killer won't be in his top 3 — a tall order when movies like Zodiac and Fight Club exist — but it's a testament to a director that even a movie that won't hang in his hall of fame is still highly entertaining, artistically driven and socially aware.

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