Over a 30-plus year career, David Fincher has created unsettling sci-fi, rich biopics, and moving romantic fantasies, but his calling card remains the kind of grim, shadow-soaked action thrillers that turned him into a household name. Fincher’s latest, The Killer, appears to be a return to those roots, recalling projects like Seven, Fight Club, and Zodiac with its bleak color palette, pulse-pounding tension, and stylized violence.
In the first teaser trailer, shared by Netflix on August 29, we see Michael Fassbender’s titular assassin going about his business with extreme precision, from lining up a sniper shot to doing his morning stretches. There’s little actual dialogue in the trailer, with Fassbender’s character instead repeating several mantra-like phrases in narration. “Stick to your plan. Fight only the battle you’re paid to fight,” he says. The trailer also gives us a brief glimpse of other key characters played by Tilda Swinton, Charles Parnell, and Arliss Howard.
“Solitary, cold, methodical, and unencumbered by scruples or regrets, a killer waits in the shadows, watching for his next target. Yet, the longer he waits, the more he thinks he’s losing his mind, if not his cool,” the movie’s official synopsis reads. The Killer is based on an acclaimed French comic book of the same name by Alexis “Matz” Nolent and Luc Jacamon. Fincher has been attached to the project for over a decade, initially with Paramount before the project moved to Netflix in 2021.
In the last decade, highly-trained-agent-on-a vendetta films have become massively popular, from the John Wick franchise to successful one-offs like Atomic Blonde and Nobody. But a director of Fincher’s caliber wading into the genre certainly warrants excitement. The Killer also sees Fincher reconnecting with writer Andrew Kevin Walker, who penned the screenplay for 1995’s Seven, which helped the director earn a reputation as a master of dark thrillers. He’s also working with cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt, who helped craft the signature black-and-white aesthetic of 2020’s Mank, and also worked on Fincher’s period FBI drama critically acclaimed, still woefully canceled Netflix series Mindhunter. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who won an Academy Award for their score on The Social Network, are back, too, and their minimalistic, electronic style helps ratchet up the tension from the trailer’s opening seconds.
The Killer is not only a return to Fincher’s roots, it’s also a comeback for Fassbender, who hasn’t appeared in a theatrical release film since 2019. (He’s been largely focused on his career as a race car driver, and even has a docuseries about his journey in the Le Mans racing series.) Fassbender is being pegged as a potential Best Actor candidate for his role in Taika Waititi’s soccer comedy Next Goal Wins, in which he plays the coach of the underdog American Samoa men’s national team.
The Killer will receive a limited theatrical release on October 27, before being available on Netflix November 10.