David Fincher, the pioneer of crime thrillers adapts Alexis Nolent and Luc Jacamon’s graphic novel of the same name for his latest Netflix venture. Fincher teams up with screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker since Se7en and premieres at the BFI London Film Festival.
The picture revolves around an unnamed assassin (Michael Fassbender) who lurks in the darkness, surveilling his next target with almost inhuman patience. But beneath his steely resolve is a man wrestling with his inner conscience. When a botched hit leaves the gunman with no choice but to retire from the world of professional killing, his shadowy past is not so willing to let him go – making him a target for his former employers and his own demons.
Whether it is Hollywood’s John Wick or Hindi cinema’s Karam, the concept of a contract killer turning into a vigilante is certainly not novel. But with Fincher and Walker’s reunion for a philosophical crime venture, this definitely seems to be the filmmaker’s most pensive and profound piece. The employment of monologues for most characters is effective in presenting their internal conflicts. This is also reinforced by the film’s globe-trotting. Most of the sounds used are either monologues or popular music, to suit each situation. With minimal background score, Fincher fuses reality and fiction.
Foreshadowing is used as a narrative device through the visuals. The beginning of a wide shot, of the main character looking makes him removed from ‘other’ people. But then with montages of a young child pretending to shoot her mother, it highlights how soon the central character, a hunter, could get hunted. Monologues also portray juxtapositions. He constantly chants: “Stick to the plan, anticipate don’t improvise, trust no one and this is what it takes if you want to succeed”. This presents him as all-knowing, but then ironically fails in his tasks. The cinematography and combat scenes are equally engaging to watch on celluloid.
Fassbender’s cold yet gentle voice is soothing yet sinister. The knowledge of his words contravene his actions but yet, so enticing. Of course, he has played morally challenged roles in titles like In A Dangerous Method. Nonetheless, it is oddly satisfying to watch him play the murderer with a conscience. Seeing both him and Tilda Swinton share screen space is cinematic gold. Yet, Swinton’s portion is way too swift and one would have preferred more development of her character from the on-set.
Like with other Fincher flicks, I also find that this movie commences with a bang. It engages the viewer until it runs out of steam throughout the second half. The constant monologues become repetitive and the screenplay lacks a solid story angle. Why is the killer so attached to these random people whom he seeks vengeance for? More than the noir tropes for aesthetics, I wish the screenplay and story were also given a close-range shot.