The Killer: in the first 20 minutes there is all the cinema of David Fincher

In the incipit of The Killer there is all the poetics of David Fincher, as well as a dazzling preface to what will later be a sort of action and adventure novel. The film is streaming on Netflix.

We timed them, sinking into the uncomfortable seats of the Sala Grande of the Venice Film Festival, where the film was presented in competition. We timed them because, perhaps to the detriment of what the film becomes, the first 20 minutes of The Killer are pure cinema. Indeed, they are the pure state of cinema David Fincher. Because the director of Fight Club e di Panic Room, his twelfth feature film, continues his exploration of the darkest recesses of the soul undaunted, passing through a meticulous scanning of every microscopic detail. Second after second (formidable, as we explain in the review), we enjoy geometry and mathematics studied to the millimetre, for what we can consider it to be one of the best incipits seen recently… in streaming.

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Michael Fassbender is the Killer

Yes, because The Killerin its cinematic nature, is also made following the canons of home viewing, in this case endorsed by the brand Netflix (which also distributed it in some selected theaters in the States, with a view to the awards). Two opposite but continuous worlds, which meet in David Fincher’s film universe: if for The Killer was inspired by the comic series of the same name written by Matz with illustrations by Luc Jacamon, his personal poetics finds the right measure of a nameless character played by a newfound Michael Fassbender. Measure expressed, as we explain in our in-depth analysis, in the first chapter of the film: in the space of a Parisian attic, under renovation and dusty, a skilled professional assassin is wandering around. We know nothing about him but, in reverse, it is as if we already knew everything.

The Killer: if the beginning of the film is worth watching

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The Killer: a scene from the film

Fincher’s shot, in this case, knows no half measures: either a wide shot, incorporating the figure of the Killer in relation to the context, or on details, whether it is an iPod playing the Smiths or a frugal meal. Let’s assume that the Killer has been there for a while, waiting to hit the target at the right time. An awaited target, night after night, peering into the windows of a luxurious hotel, guarded by the discreet binoculars of the infallible and methodical protagonist. In 20 minutes, then, nothing happens but everything happens, while the director directs the narrative, linking himself to the main character. We get to know him, we listen to his breathing as he relaxes, when he dozes lying on the plywood boards, and we almost perceive the smell of dust that pervades the room. Blow after blow, the tension becomes sharperlike the cold that creeps in through a window without glass.

David Fincher: the (anti)heroes of his cinema, from Seven to Gone Girl

Infallibility as an obsession

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A scene from the beginning of The Killer

After all, the incipit of The Killeras if it were a sort of preface to an action and adventure novel, it is the moment of calm that anticipates the storm: the initial scenario built by David Fincher, if we then think about the entire structure of the film, is in stark contrast to the typical mood of action. In that moment we are inside the universe of a lonely man, disconnected from the world, who keeps himself at a distance from the dangers of feelings, emotions and relationships. Nonetheless, the reflective schematicity, dry, disinfectant and enigmatic, is the best component of what we could consider a film within a film. Really, The Killer it would still have been a great title even if it had remained locked in that dusty attic, without ever leaving a suffocating confine.

The immersion we are talking about is in fact dictated by the psychological profile of Fassbender’s killer: between yoga and waiting, interspersed with sparse phone calls with his client, the cold and aseptic routine (as well as alienating and boring, if we think of the archetypes killers) becomes excellent cinematographic material, transformed by the director into his typical thriller styles, making the most of Erik Messerschmidt’s photography and the music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. And yes, we timed them and enjoyed them. 20 minutes balanced as the gaze of David Fincher, now applicable to both cinema and streaming. A unique taste, even more unique, when the calm is abruptly interrupted: the infallibility of the nameless killer derails, imploding in the unexpected blow that marks the actual beginning of the film. Order gives way to chaos, the moment to be seized is irremediably lost, and behind a robotic routine emerges the thrill of a man who is finally free to make mistakes.

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