The Killer, directed by Gone Girl (2014) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s (2011) David Fincher, is a fast-paced, intricately sculpted crime noir, which uses an unnamed hitman’s (Michael Fassbender) ability to vengefully rub people out of existence, unseen, to highlight that the world is too distracted by technology and brands to notice. For me, this film felt like a collision of You and American Psycho, except we are relieved of the disturbing dismemberment sequences. Fassbender’s assassin is ruthless and calculated down to the finest detail, constantly reminding himself to “forbid empathy” in order to succeed.
The film opens with Fassbender’s character positioned at the top of a desolate apartment in Paris, looking across into the lavish penthouse of his target, which immediately positions the Killer as voyeur and outsider. We see his elaborate and excessive routine; his ominous stretching and idiosyncratic sleeping pattern. When the opportunity arises, the assassin somehow misses his intended victim, hitting the target’s dominatrix instead and provoking the sequence of events which unfold thereafter.
Fassbender’s assassin is ruthless and calculated down to the finest detail, constantly reminding himself to “forbid empathy” in order to succeed.
Fincher’s Killer constantly seeks separation from the collection of “normies” that is human society. He claims detachment from the world, but contradictorily uses his blood money to live in a gorgeous villa in the Dominican Republic with his girlfriend whom he cares enough about to embark on a vengeful killing spree after she is found seriously assaulted because of his “miss.” His glass-half-empty mantra is that neither luck, karma, nor justice, are legitimate concepts, and he excuses his actions using the argument of the world’s enormity, stationing himself as the outsider by reinforcing that none of his actions make any difference or “dent” upon humanity.
The film’s conclusion is anticlimactic. The assassin confronts the Steve Jobs-esque Claybourne, who had paid for his “rubbing out” because of the missed shot in Paris. When he first encounters the disassociated billionaire, he is conversing with a colleague about BitCoin, of course. Their interaction demonstrates the Killer’s limited understanding of the system he had, until this moment, seemed so in control of. He believes Claybourne’s role as benefactor to his murder is a personal attack, however, he cannot see the bigger picture, that it is procedural, and a mere formality of missing the target. He is merely “bled ink.”
Their interaction demonstrates the Killer’s limited understanding of the system he had, until this moment, seemed so in control of.
What I found most interesting was the role of technology in the film, and Fincher’s illumination of its presence in everything we do. Moreover, the blurriness of the protagonist’s motives was a point of contention for me; I wondered why Fassbender’s character engages in this career, for money? For revenge? For simple human interaction? It can’t be an enjoyable existence constantly looking over one’s shoulder. How did the Killer become so apathetic, why is he like this? We aren’t even told why Claybourne wanted the man in Paris dead in the first place. There are certainly a few open-ended questions left in this film, but I enjoyed how Fincher expertly crafts the Killer’s method from beginning to end, leaving nothing out, to convey to us the discipline required to live such an anonymous existence.