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The Fincher Files: Fight Club (1999) Review

Fight Club

IMDB Link: Fight Club (1999)
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Jim Uhls
Stars: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter
Based on: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Synopsis: An insomniac office worker and a devil-may-care soapmaker form an underground fight club that evolves into something much, much more.

I am someone that is not a fan of narration in film. I find it for most cases to be an unnecessary format of storytelling that tells the audience what is happening, rather than showing. Several films have tried to use the narration as a character, and it is hard to get that balance right. I have to say though, Fight Club managed to get that balance and create a voice within the narration that feels vital to the story.

Part of the reason why the narration style works in the film is down to Edward Norton, who gives a fantastic performance as the character simply titled The Narrator. He gives a clear distinct voice to the film, giving us a character to follow through this crazy story. There is also the question of whether he is a reliable narrator or not, and that only adds to the entertainment within the film. Brad Pitt continues to be one of Fincher’s favourite actors here as Tyler Druden, and it easy to see why as he gives a performance that perhaps rivals Se7en for his best performance.

As great as both of those performance are though, the best performance is from Helena Bonham Carter as Marla Singer. Whenever she is on screen, it is impossible to take your eyes off of her with this mysterious role. I am still not sure what I am supposed to make of her and the situation that she has found herself in, but that also comes from her relationship with Norton throughout the film which was it’s own form of wonderful.

With The Game, Fincher felt like he was going away from his style of storytelling, the raw, brutal stories that feel grounded yet twisted. There is still an aspect of fantasy within this story, from the narrator being unreliable and not fully knowing what is going on with each character. However, this film is completely twisted within the harsh reality that is set up and I loved the world-building of this film. It is dark, brutal and unafraid to show everything on screen.

All of the technical elements help bring this harsh reality to life, from the production design to the cinematography. The colours are dim, making aspects such as the red of the blood stand out. The camera shows the audience everything, from the heavy punches to the details on Norton’s hand burning from the salt. It can be hard to watch, but I admire the film for not hiding away when they could have easily done that.

I am sensing a trend with Fincher’s works and that is the fact that they need numerous viewings to be fully appreciated. When I started watching Fight Club, I did worry that the story would favour style over substance, and for a portion of the film it does take that approach. However, that style is so well executed that it does not take much away from the film, and will probably help on repeat viewings. I do wish the narrative moved a little quicker in moments, but these are things that may work for me on a second watch.

Out of every film in Fincher’s filmography that I have seen so far, this might be the one I find myself going to for a rewatch the most. Aside from just having a fascinating story, the characters are complex and need several viewings to try and understand. There are so many individual sequences which are wonderfully crafted, from a technical standpoint alongside the writing and performances. I find myself saying it again, but this initial score could go up with a few more watches. Fincher has one again done it.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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