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The Killer rivets with a unique take on guns-for-hire

Image+courtesy+of+Netflix
Image courtesy of Netflix

Picture this: you’re sitting down on your couch to watch the latest Netflix action-thriller, and after a hyper-stylized opening credits sequence, you start the movie staring at Michael Fassbender sitting criss-cross on a dirty table in an empty WeWork space. He does a yoga routine while listening to The Smiths, and a few minutes later he’s eating a McDonald’s breakfast sandwich without the buns. This certainly isn’t your father’s James Bond. Finally, he returns to his temporary home and waits. 

And waits. 

And waits. 

Eventually, someone enters the building across from him. He watches them carefully. He shoulders his rifle. Reciting a mantra that will become a motif throughout the movie, he takes his shot – and misses. Thus begins The Killer, a tense, pulpy thrill-ride that showcases a different side of spyhood than many viewers are used to seeing.

The Killer is directed by David Fincher, and based on a French graphic novel of the same name. It follows an unnamed assassin (Michael Fassbender) as he hunts down the people who tried to kill him for messing up his last assassination. A comic fan since childhood, Fincher enjoyed making a film that harkened back to crime serials. In fact, the film is arranged in named chapters, a really fun tactic that evokes prose and also reminds me of a campaign from the Hitman video games.

Much of the film is concerned with the assassin’s process as he gathers information and tools to dispatch his enemies. As a result, the action comes in violent bursts, concluding segments of careful investigation and manhunting. These segments take clever advantage of modern technology like IPhones and Amazon, which facilitate the assassin’s attempts to lead a solitary and unnoticeable existence. He orders key fob copiers on Amazon when trying to sneak into a target’s apartment building. He acknowledges the omnipresence of CCTV in the modern age at the very beginning of the movie, giving an interesting contrast between the helpfulness and hindrance of tech. 

The more realistic facets of the assassin’s character are some of what I enjoy so much about this movie. He doesn’t care about being epic, only about doing his job and causing as little ruckus as possible. He dresses “like a German tourist” to blend in on the streets of Paris, carefully disinfects his surroundings when he is done using a room, and fastidiously cleans up loose ends on his bloody trail. Television-acute viewers will catch a theme in the aliases the assassin uses to check into hotels and airports. 

This movie also says something about the natural conflict between human mistakes and the type of mind you need to have to be an assassin. Throughout the movie, the assassin repeats the mantra of, “Anticipate, don’t improvise. Fight only the battle you’re paid to fight. Trust no one.” These are the words he lives and works by, but in the film we see natural mistakes arise, even as he puts emphasis on this mantra. At the beginning of the movie, a woman he was involved with in the Dominican Republic gets attacked by people sent to kill him. As he tracks them down he slowly loses his edge, as he realizes that his human connections have left him vulnerable. 

Most of this movie looks very nice, with lots of varying shots that keep even a simple dinner conversation visually interesting. The scenes of investigation during the day have cinematography that emphasizes the mundanity of most of the assassin’s day-to-day life. The only visual thing I have a gripe with is that there are a couple scenes (especially a specific action one) that are just so dark you can barely tell what’s happening. This may have been the conditions in which I watched it, but one action scene in a man’s apartment has stretches of the brawl where the two characters are in an almost pitch-black living room. I understand if the intent was to make it more realistic or tense, but with how well done the action is in this movie I wish I could see it in that scene in particular. 

Despite a visually muddy scene or two, The Killer is a refreshing divergence for David Fincher; a nail-biting, often quietly humorous ride with a more grounded take on spyhood. 

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About the Contributor
Dylan Maye, Entertainment Reporter
My name is Dylan Maye! I’m a sophomore, and I’ve been on the Knightmedia staff for 1 year. I am on the Prospect speech team, and am also involved in theater. Outside of school, I like to watch movies, read, and spend time with my family.

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