“Execution is everything.” These three words make up the tagline for The Killer, a new thriller film starring Michael Fassbender as a cold, calculated assassin. The film is directed by David Fincher, who has helmed some of the most famous movies of all time, like Se7en, Fight Club, The Social Network, and Gone Girl. Known for his meticulous attention to detail and precision in storytelling, the main character seems to be modeled after Fincher himself. While The Killer offers glimpses of Fincher’s masterful direction, it ultimately falters in some areas, leaving a mixed impression.

One of the standout aspects of The Killer is Fincher’s calculated direction and camera movements. Anyone who has worked with Fincher knows how meticulous he is, going in for an exhausting number of takes for the same scene. He’s a genius — a psychopath, but an absolute genius. The camera work is consistently precise and visually engaging. Fincher’s signature style is evident in every frame, with his ability to create tension and atmosphere through every moment. His talent for building suspense through framing and pacing shines through during this film, even if this is one of his more inconsistent efforts.

The lighting and framing in The Killer are something to behold. The dark and moody visuals perfectly complement the gritty and mysterious tone of the narrative. Fincher’s use of shadow and low-key lighting enhances the suspense and unease, adding depth to the film’s atmosphere. The framing is also impeccable, capturing the audience’s attention and guiding them through the story with precision.

One of the most unique and daring aspects of The Killer is its decision to maintain a perspective that’s almost entirely from the titular character. This choice offers an intriguing glimpse into the mind of a professional assassin. It allows the audience to see the world through the killer’s eyes, highlighting his methodical approach to his deadly work. This perspective offers a fresh and unconventional narrative experience, adding complexity to the film. This rings true even with the sound design, where the music the killer listens to changes volume depending on the shot.

However, The Killer has its fair share of drawbacks. One of the most significant issues is the film’s tendency to be dull at times, primarily due to the excessive use of narration. While Fincher effectively used voiceover in Fight Club, it doesn’t work as well here. Most of the killer’s thoughts and actions are expressed through inner monologue, and most of the time, it does not feel like we need to hear it. There are times when it feels as if the suspense would be even greater if we weren’t hearing the killer’s voice go through everything we’re watching.

The screenplay of The Killer is another area that leaves much to be desired. It’s a familiar revenge story that lacks the depth and emotional resonance a story like this should have. The premise feels familiar to what we have seen in movies like The Fugitive and Without Remorse. The characters, including the titular killer, are somewhat one-dimensional, leaving the audience with little to invest in emotionally. Many of the people the killer encounters throughout the film have very brief screen time. The film’s potential for exploring moral dilemmas or complex character development is squandered in favor of a more straightforward, albeit less engaging, narrative.

There are superb moments throughout the entire film. It can sometimes feel like we’re watching Fincher’s first real action movie, with a perfectly crafted motorcycle sequence that gets you into his headspace. There is some well-timed, clever humor throughout and a very intentional use of product placement. However, the emotional core that drives the killer forward is lacking, and it can sometimes feel like we’re watching another take on The Equalizer. It’s strange how a Fincher film can feel so conventional, and yet, his style is anything but. His lighting and framing is perfect, but there isn’t much that takes us beyond his remarkable talent behind the camera.

Despite the film’s shortcomings, The Killer still manages to maintain a level of intrigue and suspense throughout its runtime. The occasional dull moments and unremarkable screenplay are offset by Fincher’s stylish direction and exquisite color palette. The film’s strong visual elements and atmospheric cinematography create an engaging environment for the story to unfold. I wish that it pushed its audience’s emotions more than it does, and I wish it amounted to something greater.

The Killer is a showcase of David Fincher’s impeccable directorial skills, particularly in terms of camerawork, lighting, and framing. However, the film is hindered by its endless narration, a mediocre screenplay, and its adherence to a revenge story that you have seen before done a lot better. While it falls short of reaching the heights of some of Fincher’s previous works, it still offers a stylish and occasionally suspenseful cinematic experience. For fans of the director’s distinctive style, The Killer may be worth a watch, but it may leave some viewers craving a deeper and more emotionally resonant story.

SCORE: 5/10

As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 5 equates to “Mediocre.” The positives and negatives wind up negating each other, making it a wash.

Disclosure: ComingSoon attended the New York Film Festival for our The Killer review.

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