November 19, 2023 – This movie is about the almost mundane routines of an elite international assassin for hire. The movie opens with the killer (played by Michael Fassbender of “Alien: Covenant”) talking about fighting off boredom as he stakes out a building in Paris where his next intended victim is expected to visit.
As part of a film-long narration, he says, “If you are unable to endure boredom, this work (killing) is not for you.” He complains to his employer that he has already waited five days and he plans to abandon the assassination if the target does not show up in a couple of more days.
Rather than the glamorous, flamboyant lifestyle of James Bond, this killer avoids such distractions as fancy restaurants and bars. He eats McDonald hamburgers while he waits patiently in a plain, unfurnished room across the street from the building he is watching. Matter-of-factly, the killer explains his routine, blending in, being as inconspicuous as possible, not drawing attention to himself.
Finally, the target arrives, an older man being entertained by a dominatrix. The killer opens his window and gets his sniper rifle ready, waiting, as a spider for a fly. He repeats his mantra, “Stick to your plan. Anticipate, don't improvise. Trust no one. Never yield an advantage. Fight only the battle you're paid to fight. Forbid empathy. Empathy is weakness. Weakness is vulnerability. Each and every step of the way, ask yourself ‘What's in it for me?’”
The killer's mantra, and all of his preparations and skills fail him. His assassination attempt fails. His failure shocks him, but he makes a quick getaway, and his employer is not pleased.
The killer escapes, and carefully makes his way to a hideout home in the Dominican Republic, only to find his girlfriend Magdala (played by Sophie Charlotte) has been attacked. Badly beaten, she manages to escape. In the hospital, she tells him that the attackers learned nothing from her. It is obvious that the people who attacked Magdala were sent to kill him.
The Killer arranges for Magdala to be taken away to safety, and makes a solemn vow to Magdala's brother, Marcus (Emiliano Pernía) that she will never again be placed in such danger. To keep his promise, The Killer methodically tracks down the people responsible for the attack and kills them one by one. He also kills some other people along the way, just to eliminate witnesses.
It appears that during the process of killing these people that the Killer is not exactly following the dictates of his own mantra. He ends up killing people who have made him rich, as well as those his employer hired to kill him. The final target is the person who hired him for the Paris hit in the first place.
The Killer's view of the world is matter-of-fact, “‘Every man for himself. Kill or be killed. Survival of the fittest.’ Isn't it all just human nature? Of those who like to put their faith in mankind's inherent goodness, I have to ask, based on what, exactly?” He adds that, “Skepticism is often mistaken for cynicism. Most people refuse to believe that the great beyond is no more than a cold, infinite void. But I accept it, along with the freedom that comes from acknowledging that truth.”
It is ironic that The Killer's goal for himself and Magdala is safety and security, yet during his killing spree, he demonstrates that these goals are unattainable. He is able to get access to people who have locked themselves into high-tech, high-security buildings.
This very slick movie is directed by the highly skilled David Fincher (“Fight Club” and “The Social Network”). It is deliberately clinical and devoid of emotion. Fassbender plays his role in much the same way he played a robot in “Alien: Covenant.” While there is some action, such as an extended fight scene with another killer called “The Brute” (Sala Baker of “Deadpool 2”) most of the killings are sort of routine.
Rather than being a high-energy action film, this is more of a movie about a particular occupation and a particular worldview. It also explores human nature a bit around the edges. As with most Fincher movies, this one is elegantly made, with good performances, especially by Fassbender and Tilda Swinton of “Asteroid City, who plays a killer called “The Expert.” Swinton delivers some of the best dialog in the movie. This movie rates a B.
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