The Killer (2023) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

The Killer ⭐⭐⭐⭐

After a fateful near-miss, an assassin battles his employers, and himself, on an international manhunt he insists isn’t personal.

I should probably start by stating the obvious: David Fincher is one of the greatest directors working in the industry today. His films may sometimes venture into uncomfortably dark and gritty territory, but the level of sleekness and precise craftsmanship that he brings to the table sets him apart from pretty much 99% of his Hollywood peers.

I remember studying every frame of Se7en back in film school: its blackest blacks, its clinical and meticulous attention to detail and the devastatingly dark (and yet, drenched in sunlight) twist-ending. I was left speechless after Fight Club and felt like wanting to see it again straight afterwards. I adore that quiet gut-wrenching tension created by Zodiac.

He even turned Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg into a fascinating and absorbing subject, with the magnificent Social Network. And you know what? I loved even The Game, silly as few films are, but slick like very few things.

With his latest, The Killer, Fincher once again cements his status as a master of his craft. This is, once again, a dark and enigmatic thriller, which perfectly encapsulates his unique directorial flair, taking us on a gripping journey and keeping us on the edge of our seats.

The plot, adapted from a French graphic novel and written by Andrew Kevin (the screenwriter behind Se7en,), couldn’t be simpler and could be written on the back of a stamp. The story revolves around a professional killer, as meticulous and precise as the man behind the camera. Indeed the style of the film mirrors the slick cynicism of the main characters.

Fincher remains as objective as the killer himself while at the same time he uses all the tools at his disposal to create an atmosphere so tense and captivating that hardly ever lets you go.

The cinematography by Erik Messerschmidt is beautiful, sporting Fincher’s signature cold and dark visual aesthetic, with sleek urban landscapes as well as dimly lit interiors. The calculated and deliberate camera work also intensifies a constant sense of unease.

The soundtrack does a lot of work too. The sparse score by Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor, with its minimalist approach, allows the audience to become fully immersed in the on-screen events, heightening the impact of the visuals.

Even the sound design is astounding: every subtle sound has a purpose, whether it’s the creaking of a door, the tapping of footsteps, or the low hum of background noise. Each is purposefully chosen and placed to elevate the tension and build anticipation, creating a visceral and nerve-wracking experience as well as providing additional layers of storytelling.

This is a real masterclass in creating a tense atmosphere and gripping film-making…

Throughout all this, Fassbender’s presence commands attention. He might be a cold, remorseless killer, who hardly ever speaks throughout the film (though his voice-over fills the soundtrack loud and clear) and yet, we are glued to the screen, watching his every move. His ability to captivate the audience, pretty much single-handedly throughout the film, by keeping a seemingly emotionless and inscrutable face, is a testament to the strength of his talent and presence.

The Killer may not reach the pinnacle of Fincher’s greatest film making and it’s probably a little bit too slight and (deceivingly) simple as a film, to make a real impact, but it’s so expertly crafted that I couldn’t help falling for it.

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick, and a co-creator of the Chiswick In Film festival.

The Killer is out in cinemas across the country.