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The Fincher Files: Mank (2020) Review

IMDb Link: Mank (2020)
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Jack Fincher
Stars: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins

Synopsis: Follows screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz’ tumultuous development of Orson Welles’ iconic masterpiece Citizen Kane.

We are at the end of the road, and it has been a wonderful journey. Going through all of David Fincher’s films in the past month has made me realise what a wonderful director he is and how much more credit he is due for the work he puts out. It does seem like his latest film, Mank, may be the one that gets him the recognition that he deserves, and I would be quite satisfied if this is the film that does well for him.

This may just be the most technically tight film he has directed. This has all the makings to win Best Cinematography, as the visuals here are just stunning. I am not just talking about the choice to have the black-and-white filter over it (and honestly, the best use of that choice of filmmaking in the past decade), but capturing each and every scene and the locations. Each scene could be a classic Hollywood poster, and I would be very happy to have it framed on my wall.

What David Fincher nails with this film alongside the cinematography is the tone, and capturing that early Hollywood magic. The production designs look incredibly real, showing all of the different aspects of Hollywood in front of and behind the cameras. The editing also helps capture this magic, replicating an editing style of classic fade to blacks and distinct cuts from scene to scene to give the impression that the film has come from the 1940s. It is incredibly smart and gets us further invested into the story and world.

This is a film that is going to shine within the technical awards, and there are several others I am still to mention. This year’s Oscar race is coming down to be Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross for Soul against Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross for Mank, as they prove that they are some of the best composers working in the business. They are a pairing that Fincher has worked with for several movies now, and with every film, they simply get better and better. I also want to highlight the make-up, hairstyling and costumes, that also help bring these characters to life.

This is one of the few films from David Fincher that the performances do not actually stand out for me. For a film that is a bio-pic about the Hollywood system in the 1940s, I am actually surprised on how reserved the performances are from the actors here, and yet I think it works for the tone of the film. The ensemble is great altogether, and it is that chemistry between everything that helps drive the narrative and sell the world, rather than the individual characters. The individual relationships between Gary Oldman and the two leading ladies, Amanda Seyfried and Lily Collins, are special and come across beautifully.

This is the most inaccessible film that David Fincher has made, and I am not sure if a general audience will be able to connect with this film. I do have some issues with the screenplay for this film, and the non-linear approach it takes to tell this story. It continually jumps back and forth, losing focus on who the audience should be paying attention to, what we should be making of the Hollywood system, and what the focus of the narrative is. It does hinder the film within the middle when the script cannot seem to tighten up and give us a clear objective.

This is a film that I will find myself going back to many times, appreciating so many elements that David Fincher brought in to make this world come to life. This is not a story that hangs on the narrative, it is one that I care about the atmosphere and passion for filmmaking. It is certainly a nice addition to his filmography, and one that I cannot wait for everyone to watch when it drops on Netflix.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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