The Killer (R, 118 mins). Streaming on Netflix.
Directed by David Fincher.
Widely billed as a thriller, David Fincher’s The Killer is more of a psychological drama, a hunt for the inner workings of an assassin’s mind, a topic that has interested Fincher since he directed Se7en in 1995, somewhat ironically starring Kevin Spacey as a serial killer who turned out to be ticking off each of the seven deadly sins, somehow punishing the world for having forgotten they exist.
Netflix shows the title as “The K_.ller”, suggesting a code needs to be cracked, but there’s no direct reference to Morse code’s “G” or the Nato alphabet’s Golf, except for one odd glimpse of the nameless assassin (a brilliantly understated Michael Fassbender) with what appears to be a golf ball in his mouth.
An ascetic, he doesn’t eat or drink much at all over what appears to be a two-week timeframe, except for a banana and a cup of coffee - oh yes, and a gulp of Tilda Swinton’s whiskey.
From a Rear Window-inspired scene in Paris and a rare botch of an assassination, the killer assumes a number of identities for flights and rental car hire, coolly stalking the culprits who have, presumably as punishment for his botch, made an attempt on the life of his girlfriend (Sophie Charlotte), with whom he co-habits occasionally in the Dominican Republic.
Having gone there and extracted clues at gunpoint, his vengeful pursuit takes him to Florida, New Orleans, New York and Chicago, with a target in each place.
Travelling, he wears unremarkable holiday clothes, making no attempt to disguise his face.
Pre-kill, always in workers’ clothes and a beanie, he listens to his mantra on his pocket iPod: “Stick to the plan, anticipate don’t improvise, trust no one, never yield an advantage, fight only the battle you’re paid to fight, empathy is weakness, what’s in it for me, this is what it takes, this is what you commit yourself to if you want to succeed. Simple.”
As the killer’s handler, the super-organised lawyer Hodges (Charles Parnell) has a tiny but significant role in the New Orleans segment, but it’s in New York, and perhaps in the whole movie, that one scene stands out: Tilda Swinton’s star turn as The Expert will stay with viewers for a long time.
Extremely tall with exquisitely cut platinum hair, it’s no surprise a Dominican Republic taxi driver spilling the beans described her as a Q-tip (cotton bud).
Trapped opposite the killer in a restaurant, realising her end is imminent, she acknowledges that she’s not eaten nearly enough Haagen-Dazs or drunk enough whiskey, and swiftly takes steps to remedy both those problems.
With the Smiths’ greatest hits including Girlfriend in a Coma and Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now providing the tone for crucial scenes, a casually philosophical screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker based on the graphic novel by Alexis Nolent and illustrated by Luc Jacamon, and with Academy Award-winning cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt behind a camera that really tells a story, The Killer is sophisticated film-making, grippingly sinister and good entertainment.
Movies are rated: Avoid, Recommended, Highly recommended and Must see.
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