With season two of David Fincher’s Mindhunter right around the corner it’s time we got back to our review of David Fincher’s filmography. Please enjoy Part III of our director series on David Fincher.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
Fincher’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was received with some criticism from fans of Niels Arden Oplev’s original Swedish version. As often in the case of a foreign movie remade by Hollywood critics complained there was no reason for a remake and Hollywood could never do justice to the original movie. Even the director of the Swedish version got in on the complaints. Fincher’s adaptation of the novel proved all the critics wrong.
Across the board the acting in Dragon Tattoo is top notch. Fincher always manages to get performances from actors other directors may not be able to get. The only criticism of the movie is how Mikael (Daniel Craig) and Lisbeth (Rooney Mara) discover the true identity of the killer. In the Swedish version photos of Martin Vanger wearing the same sweater are used to link him to the murders. In Fincher’s version the photos have remained but Vanger (Stellan Skarsgard) is now wearing a prep school jacket.
Whether it was a sweater or a jacket the discovery of the killer’s identity is a cheat. Ninety percent of the movie was well plotted with a real murder mystery at the center of the story. It’s all blown with the final scenes of Vanger torturing Mikael and Salander killing Vanger in a car-motorcycle chase. It’s a typical ending for a movie that was otherwise not typical. As with Gone Girl Fincher was working from the source novel. Can the director be blamed for how bad the novel was written?
David Fincher has made a few books into movies. Some have failed like Gone Girl and others have been near hits like Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. When the source material is from author Chuck Palahniuk the results are spectacular.
Palahniuk is not your typical author. His prose can be jaunting and sometimes scattered. He challenges his readers to read between the lines and fill in the gaps left intentionally for readers to find. He’s not a safe author like Gillian Flynn or Stieg Larrson. A writer like Palahniuk deserved a director like Fincher to bring the madness of Fight Club to the big screen.
Fight Club was in danger of becoming a parody of itself. A box office bomb upon release it became a hit on DVD. There was a time when everyone was telling people the first rule of Fight Club or saying ” I am Jack’s (add your own thing here).” Now twenty years later away and a million miles away from the initial hoopla Fight Club can take its place as one of Fincher’s best movies.
Two detectives, complete opposites of each other, are partnered together to catch a serial killer terrorizing a city. It sounds like a lot of movies that have come out since Seven‘s 1995 original release. Except in the hands of David Fincher the stereotypical buddy cop movie is turned on its head and the result is a classic, neo-noir crime thriller countless of movies have tried to mimic.
Seven is as dark a movie as they come. Set not only in a city with no name, but a city where the sun never shines and it’s constantly raining. The city’s constant bad weather mirrors the dark deeds going on in the movie. The darker the deed the harder it rains. The detectives are caught in a down pour during the discovery and investigation of the Gluttony victim. In calmer scenes, like dinner at the Mills’s apartment, a mere drizzle coats the windows. Interestingly enough the rain starts to lift as the movie draws to a close. By the time Mills and Somerset reach the outside of the city with John Doe it’s practically a beautiful summer day. Perhaps a new day has dawned in the city.
Some people may disagree with the opinion that Zodiac is Fincher’s best movie to date. It doesn’t have the fable like feel Benjamin Button has nor the run time. It’s not an edge of your seat action movie like Panic Room. Unlike movies like Dragon Tattoo and a host of other who dunnit movies there’s no cheap “ah-ha” moment. Neither David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) or William Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) stumble across a clue they missed earlier in the movie that ultimately solves the case.
Zodiac has no clean ending. There is no happy ending before the credits roll. We are only told the killings stopped after Arthur Leigh Allen, played by the great character actor John Carroll Lynch (Fargo, The Founder) died. It’s not the ending fans of this type of movie have come to expect. The movie is not wrapped up with a bow on the top. As an audience we have been trained to want to see the killer or killers caught and punished.
No one except for the people sucked into the Zodiac investigation is punished. Punish may be too strong of a word. However, no one escapes unscathed. Even Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) whose book the movie is based on is affected by the investigation.
At times Zodiac feels like a documentary. It’s logical in its progression from the first memorable scene to the end credits. Logical, but not boring. There are enough twists and turns to keep the audience engaged. It’s the same documentary feel coursing through Mindhunter. In fact, Zodiac can be seen as a spiritual predecessor to Mindhunter.