Director's Cut

“The Killer”, Method and Infallibility

In Film & Series, Director's Cut 5 September, 2023

Eva Peydró

Eva Peydró


Methodical, clean, and calm, with its own operating manual transformed into mantras, The Killer stalks, executes, and disappears. Everything is predetermined with no room for improvisation and, in principle, fail-safe. In the first images of the film, we find Michael Fassbender waking up at dawn, still sitting in an uncomfortable chair from which he watches, waiting for the right moment to claim his prey. In an infinite range of greys, the Parisian light begins to illuminate a space in which the professional killer begins his sun salutation in a semi-empty space, on his thin mat. Slim, sinewy, protean, flexible, concentrated, practicing yoga, he offers the absolute image of infallibility, reinforced by his voice-over, which enumerates his commandments, boasting his experience and effectiveness. The 21st-century sniper has the coolness of Jackal’s Edward Fox, but with serially stocked sportswear that seems to come out of Zuckerberg‘s wardrobe. The icy emptiness in which we find him is a metaphor for death, which he is capable of provoking, and which he defines as follows Most people don’t want to believe that the afterlife is nothing more than a cold, infinite void.

el asesino. the killer

For The Killer (David Fincher, 2023), which premiered at the 80th Venice Film Festival, Andrew Kevin Walker (Seven, 1995) adapts the graphic novel illustrated by Luc Jacamon by the French writer Alexis Nolent, known as Matz, and something of this remains in the animated vignettes of the film‘s overture, which make us think of the indiscreet window, where partial vision can save lives or, on the contrary, lead us to disaster through mistake. Both happen here. In a great irony, the basis on which the film is built, professionalism is surrendered to chance. The killer fears boredom more than failure, believing the latter to be guaranteed, but the impeccability of routine proves fragile. From this scene, which opens the director’s first film after Mank (2020), also for Netflix, a series of events unfolds that will disprove almost all the maxims of his manual.

An absolute Smiths fan, his headphones deliver him to music that perhaps acts as an anchor for his perfectionism, his proven efficiency, but now he must flee, return to his tropical refuge, to find himself on the run again. The killer has no name and he has many, hoarding sets of documents, six storage spaces across the world with weapons and tools of disguise, cars, to adapt different and false identities with which to snake through airport lounges and sneak in anywhere, Florida, New York, Chicago, New Orleans? The great humiliation inflicted on this perfect killing machine is like a joke and Fincher sneaks in others, such as the wink with the names he adopts, becoming Felix Ungar, Oscar Madison (The Odd Couple), or Lou Grant…, endearing characters from the cinematic and television imaginary at the antipodes of the crime and violence that the killer is capable of deploying.

The routine of criminal work, with no more accessories than his tools, is stripped of the more anecdotal paraphernalia that would endow the protagonist with a recognizable or empathizable character, but it is precisely the minimalism with which he is described that shapes his personality, precisely through his processes. Fincher conveys that lethality is a low-key task, so cold and simple that anyone with an Amazon account and sufficient self-control could do it, and in this sense, the timing provides a natural rhythm with which The Killer flows. The plot is not a slow-burning one, but one that climbs the ladder, in this case towards total vengeance, the one that is the ultimate contradiction and betrayal of guiding principles of method that, in the end, have proved too weak to withstand such a high-stakes edifice. The killing machine is not a machine after all.

Fassbender, perfect in his role and who we haven’t seen in a good film in a long time, shares the casting with Tilda Swinton, who deserved a portrayal more up to her standards, and whose presence we expected to enjoy more.

The Killer will premiere also on Netflix on 11 November.

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80th Venice Film FestivalDavid FincherMichael FassbenderThe KillerNetflix

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