Director Spotlight: David Fincher
Daniella Clark ranks six of her favourite David Fincher films for this week’s Director Spotlight.
David Fincher is fastidious. He is ferocious. He is, I would imagine, not much fun at parties. But, while scripts, performances, and cinematography are all important aspects of his films, Fincher’s absolute control is unparalleled as a director. He forms his conception of the perfect movie and goes to great lengths to execute it — at the peril of anyone in his way. That includes Ben Affleck, who refused to wear a New York Yankees cap on the set of Gone Girl, causing Fincher to publicly slate him as ‘unprofessional’. As he should.
Here are my top six David Fincher films ranked.
6. The Game (1997)
Taking a crazy concept and running with it is classic Fincher. But, even by his standards, The Game is a wild ride. Michael Douglas plays Nicholas Van Orton, a wealthy businessman who signs up to ‘The Game’, a service designed to make his life more interesting. Which it certainly does. In a horrific turn of events, the creators of ‘The Game’ seem intent on making Van Orton’s existence an inescapable hell.
While I love the concept of this film, I don’t think it’s as well-executed as some of Fincher’s other projects. However, it’s still worth a watch, especially if you want to see a hilariously unhinged Michael Douglas pointing a gun at someone and warning them he is “very fragile right now.”
5. Zodiac (2007)
It’s the late 60s, and a serial killer has just emerged in the San Francisco Bay Area, brutalising his victims and taunting the police and press with ciphers. Jake Gyllenhaal — yes, the antagonist of Taylor Swift’s Red era — stars as Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist who becomes fixated on uncovering the killer’s identity.
As it’s based on the real story of the Zodiac Killer and inspired by the books by Robert Graysmith, Fincher does an excellent job of capturing the horrors of this fraught moment in history. Anticipation builds as Graysmith becomes more and more obsessive, enhanced by wonderful supporting performances by Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo. However, the true story itself, rather than Fincher’s direction, limits the film’s potential.
4. The Social Network (2010)
Fincher takes on the biopic. The Social Network is the tale of how Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook and destroyed his only meaningful friendship in the process. The harrowing story is conveyed through Aaron Sorkin’s lightning script and Fincher’s airtight direction. Together, they make a frighteningly perfectionistic team. Jesse Eisenberg gives a career-defining performance as Zuckerberg, and Fincher displays his knack for rogue but brilliant casting choices with Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker.
It could be deemed controversial to put one of David Fincher’s most beloved and highly regarded films at only a measly number four on this list. But while I think it’s well-executed and a masterclass in screenwriting, I find it uncomfortable to watch. Even more so than his grisly crime plots.
3. Se7en (1995)
Speaking of, Se7en is a film as edgy as replacing the letter ‘v’ with the number ‘7’ in the title would lead you to believe. Two detectives, played by Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, hunt down a serial killer who’s into bumping off his victims in the style of the seven deadly sins. Calling this film disturbing doesn’t really cut it — the only way I can describe it is that you feel grimy after watching. Even the opening credits are intended to look as though a serial killer made them.
The ending is the most divisive aspect of the film and could tinge your overall viewing experience. But if you love it, it will make the film an instant favourite.
2. Fight Club (1999)
The rule is, of course, that you don’t talk about Fight Club. But after over 20 years of relentless discourse and its elevation to ‘cult classic’ status, is there anything new to say?
In the unlikely event that you haven’t seen it, I refuse to ruin your experience by disclosing plot details. Suffice to say; it’s electric. Fincher directs the two leads wonderfully in this film. Edward Norton is sardonic, while Brad Pitt is endlessly captivating, particularly to male viewers. I’ve seen more men than women gushing over Pitt’s perfect body in this film.
Not only is Fight Club subversive and exciting, but it’s also the best on-screen examination of the masculinity crisis I’ve ever seen. ‘Why is it not number one, then?’, you ask. Because number one is not just a movie. It’s a movement. It’s a lifestyle…
1. Gone Girl (2014)
It’s Gone Girl. Is anyone surprised?
Rosamund Pike plays Amy Dunne, a woman who disappears from her home under suspicious circumstances, leaving her husband (Ben Affleck) looking particularly suspicious.
Not only is this film flawlessly directed — each scene more nail-biting than the last — but Amy Dunne also stands out as a monumental character. Anchored by her influential ‘cool girl’ monologue, it’s impossible to understate Amy’s impact, particularly on young women.
However, no one is more Amy Dunne than David Fincher himself, which makes both the character and director so compelling.