Saturday, 20 October 2012

David Fincher - 22 Years in Film

The first David Fincher film I saw was exactly 22 years ago. And I hated it!


Time has tempered this slightly, however, despite repeated re-viewings of that very film, it remains my least favourite of his incredible cannon of cinematic work. The irony being, and partly a reason for my disliking of his first film, is that I'm a huge fan of the Alien franchise (don't you just hate that word!). Alien and Aliens are triumphs, especially Ridley Scott's original, which still stands the test of time, 35 years after it's original release.

David has helmed ten feature films (1992-2014) and with the exception of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" I have been fortunate enough to see these either on release, or very close by. Five of the ten films have left me with "True Romance syndrome", that being I was so blown away on seeing the films I just wanted to grab a beautiful woman and go and get some pie. And here, for no reason whatsoever is my personal David Fincher top 10 films in order of preference. You may disagree, and I sincerely hope you do but be warned, I have a Tyler Durden side to me, and you don't want to see that now, do you?
  1. Fight Club (1999)
  2. Se7en (1995)
  3. Gone Girl (2014)
  4. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
  5. The Social Network (2010)
  6. Zodiac (2007)
  7. The Game (1997)
  8. Panic Room (2002)
  9. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
  10. Alien 3 (1992)

It is not my intention to provide huge spoilers for the coming ten films. Rather, my purpose is to give a flavour with only 5-10% total of the film itself, as I do not want to spoil these for you in any way. Moreover, my film blogs are an appreciation of the film's crafted by a wonderful Director and a Director who's films I have grown up with and eagerly awaited and cherished every new release. Here are all ten of his cinematic releases in chronological order.

Alien 3 (1992)

"Don't be afraid, I'm part of the family"

Picking up where Alien/Aliens left off, "Ripley" (Sigourney Weaver) has crash landed onto an inhospitable planet, further complicated by the fact it's an all male prison planet. Fans of the franchise will be able to fill in the blanks, but this third instalment is far from both the Ridley Scott original and the inferior follow up from James Cameron. The largest supporting role comes courtesy of Charles Dance as "Clemens" the Prison Facility's Doctor and although a surprisingly small overall cast list, there are many notable actors within the remaining supporting and cameo roles, including Charles S Dutton as "Dillon", Paul McGann as "Colic", Christopher Fairbank as "Murphy" and Pete Postlethwaite almost indistinguishable as "David". Brian Glover also stars as "Andrews", giving the film a comedic air, sometimes purposely so, often times not! Lance Henriksen also returns as "Bishop".

The juxtaposition between the cremation/Alien birthing scene early on is the film's true highlight, masterly switching from extreme to extreme. However, this is the highlight, and the film disappointingly plods on from there. Although a common theme throughout all Alien movies, there is a distinct lack (for me) of the actual Alien! When the Alien is present, the CGI effects are poor and doesn't lend itself to the film. In Ridley Scott's original it is almost entirely absent, but the threat and intensity is there. This film lack's that intensity. The shoddy script, together with clunky performances leaves some scene's "hanging" and leaves the viewer feeling a little awkward and definitely wanting more.

The film as a whole was beset with problems, both pre and post filming and this is aptly shown on screen. However I'd direct you to the attached link above for a far more eloquent appraisal.

This film certainly has it's merits and David Fincher's future hallmarks throughout. But one of the greatest films of all time was just three years away.

Se7en (1995)

"What's in the box?"

Tired, weary and soon to retire "Detective Somerset" (Morgan Freeman in yet another stellar performance) and "Detective Mills" (Brad Pitt at near perfection best) fresh faced and anxious to please, are thrown together as it quickly becomes evident that a serial killer is on the loose and literally following the seven deadly sins as a means of inspiration for his killings. Brilliantly written by Andrew Kevin Walker, the film is accompanied by a twisting yet often subtle musical score from Howard Shore and as described briefly below is continually bathed in perpetual rain and a feeling of damp and dark pervades which is brilliantly lit by Director of Cinematography Darius Khonddji. These are all triumphs of the film for me, as are the constant "inserts" such as varying pieces of eclectic music from "Suite Number 3 in D Major" by Johann Sebastian Bach (as Somerset peruses a local library) through to "Trouble Man" by Marvin Gaye. Despite following a day to day narrative (the day's of the week are displayed on screen as we go), the film never settles and never pursues one single narrative strand. Yet with Fincher's brilliance (can you believe he reluctantly helmed the film?!), he brings the very best out of his two central performers.

In addition to these stellar performances from Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, there are two further excellent performances (noted below) but two additional supporting roles are well played by Leland Orser as "Crazed Man in Massage Parlour" and a hilarious star turn from R Lee Ermey as "Police Captain". I note these roles specifically as the crazed man role perfectly portrays the havoc and devastation caused by the killer throughout his spree and R Lee Ermey's comedic turn as the harassed and under pressure Police Captain, whilst a little dated and stereotypical lends the film a light relief, especially his subtle "This isn't even my desk" response to a telephone call. I also note this specifically as despite the dark and brooding air of intensity that surrounds the film, there is a brilliantly blended air of the surreal, a lightness of touch and dark comedy intertwined throughout.

Unusually, the film begins with a four minute preamble into the two main characters, before an unseen loud clap of thunder brings this to a halt and introduces the opening credits of numerous quick and brooding with menace inter cut shots. From the outset, you are introduced into a grimy, dark and dank world which is constantly raining. Many scenes are often illuminated only by a Detective's torchlight, yet the cinematography captures that brooding menace perfectly, as well as the set decorations of each scene. Each shot is meticulous, as is the editing, which is sharp, often jumping quickly from Mills to Somerset, Somerset to Mills, and back again. This moves the film along at a pace with seven murders, settings and locations, the editing especially immerses you in the film as you try to anticipate the Detective's next move or thinking. The killings themselves are never portrayed nor are they gruesomely detailed, save a few fleeting shots as they are quickly cut away or via police evidence photographs, yet the vivid detail is there. The film allows you to compassionately view these all as an outsider, yet with all the evidence at hand, and still does not glorify in the violence or the resultant death being explored.

The third main character albeit in virtually a cameo, though vitally important role, is Kevin Spacey as "John Doe". Hidden, indistinguishable, he is occasionally "seen" at the beginning of Act 2 and eerily similar to that of the fleeting jump cut inserts we see of Tyler Durden in Fight Club, but he finally announces himself, and triumphantly so, at the end of Act 2 with his blood soaked surrender and "Detective" (almost a whisper) "Detective" (louder) to "DETECTIVE - you're looking for me....."

Gwyneth Paltrow is underused as Mills wife "Tracy", however this is almost certainly deliberate, as the film centre's on the relationship between Mills and Somerset. From antipathy, to colleagues, to grudging friends, to determined collaborators. Again with quick editing from one character to the other, we see this develop amongst the rich tapestry of this amazing film. Despite his reticence to direct, this is a triumph of a film from David Fincher, but ably assisted in this triumph by his Editor, Richard Francis-Bruce and Cinematographer Darius Khondji who deserve great credit for producing together one of the greatest films of all time. I realise this is a lengthening list, but Se7en deserves its place amongst the very best of all time. 19 years since it's initial release, this film has not aged a single frame and remains a constant joy to re-watch, time and time again.

The Game (1997)

"Discovering the object of the game, is the object of the game"

Michael Douglas is outstanding as "Nicholas Van Orton", a man who seemingly wants for nothing, yet in that duality of life, is struggling to come to terms with the early death of his Father. His brother "Conrad", a cameo role from one of the greatest actors of his generation, Sean Penn, is free spirited and the exact opposite of his older Brother. Or is he? Michael Douglas here is reminiscent of his Gordon Gecko role in Wall Street. Wealthy, driven, distant and aloof, he is in every scene and virtually every scene shot from his perspective. Often shot upward toward Douglas, and to his eyes specifically, you are drawn into his world and his twisted and paranoid thoughts.

The opening scene sets the table, with old home cinema footage of Van Orton and his family and specifically his Father, enjoying family gatherings. Further footage is inter cut throughout the first Act, culminating early in the film of his Father's suicide. Surrounding this, Van Orton is shown as a successful Investment Banker. You follow his success, his wealth, yet his distance from people, from employees and from life as a whole. The gift from his Brother, The Game, from an organisation called Consumer Recreation Services changes this and you follow Van Orton's descent and immersion into The Game. Quickly the lines between real life and The Game are brilliantly blurred and we follow Van Orton as he disintegrates, trying to distinguish real life and The Game. Ultimately a Father/Son and Brother/Brother tale it's also interesting to note the psychometric testing and psychoanalysis performed on Van Orton whilst undergoing the initiation into The Game. What is The Game? What is real? Constant questions that you as the viewer know the answer to, but the participant does not. Also ultimately a tale of human redemption, resolving long standing issues and even a short religious reference as an answer to what is The Game? "Where Once I was Blind...".

Fast paced and always shot from Van Orton's viewpoint, a minor criticism is that Act Three is way too long, but this is a very minor criticism! A third major character is "Christine" with Deborah Kara Unger brilliantly portraying the character's torn duality and whom completes a triumvirate of main characters. Other than the three major characters, numerous smaller roles are filled, but it is Michael Douglas front and centre throughout in a near career best performance. Howard Shore again provides a minimal but highly suspenseful score to an outstanding film that has aged very well over the seventeen years since release.

Fight Club (1999)

"and this is how I met Tyler Durden"

Where do you start with Fight Club? A film that continues to split opinion between a violent, sweary, semi misogynistic wrap of a film that glorifies violence and wants a violent rebellion, to on a subconscious (dare I say more enlightened?) level, a rallying cry against modern living, of fractured lives, of a brighter future and a new beginning away from "Planet Starbucks". Based on the excellent (and thoroughly recommended) book of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk and a wonderful screenplay from Jim Uhls, Director Fincher also relied heavily on some wonderfully frenetic editing from James Haygood and in particular stellar cinematography from Director of Photography Jeff Cronenweth. Combine this with some wonderfully diverse and surreal characters brilliant portrayals from some of Cinema's finest character actors and mix in a pulsing and unrelenting musical score from The Dust Brothers and you have Fight Club. But please remember before you proceed: "The first rule of Fight Club is - You do not talk about Fight Club". The opening 20 minutes of this 139 minute modern day classic is an utter tour de force of film making, briefly dissected below:

The opening titles are seemingly one long continuous shot inside the veins of the human body only broken by intermittent flashes of the actor's names and technical support staff until finally we see what looks like human skin and a single hair follicle. This quickly zooms, still in a continuous shot to the barrel of a gun, the tip of which is inside a frightened man's mouth. As the Dust Brothers iconic pulsing opening track "Stealing Fat" ends, so begins "The Narrator" and his opening narration of "People are always asking me if I know Tyler Durden". Cutting away from the unnamed man, the gun now removed from his mouth, we see the first of many David Fincher trademark camera moves as with The Narrator still constantly narrating, the camera moves in between, around and often through the building in which the unnamed man is housed, the charges and explosives set, and the havoc about to be wrought by "Project Mayhem".

Brief cuts follow before the unnamed man, reminiscing and thinking about "Marla Singer" (Helena Bonham Carter) is now in an embrace with "Bob" (Meat Loaf) and his infamous "Bitch Tits". As The Narrator informs us, the unnamed man suffers from insomnia and in an attempt to resolve this he now visits various self help groups to relax, be himself or at least be someone and be with others, however bizarre and inappropriate the circumstances. With another trademark David Fincher about turn, the film grinds to a halt as we now rewind to fill the back story of how this still unnamed man got here, how he began visiting these self help groups and why. Numerous jump cuts (with continual narration) see him unable to sleep, falling asleep at work, lamenting that "Everything is a copy, of a copy, of a copy" whilst standing barely awake at a photocopier. However it's the quick flash of a Starbucks cup and more importantly the first flash of another man's image in the background that catches your eye almost on a sub conscious level. A brief interlude follows as The Narrator decries the world in which we live and how the Corporations now run our daily lives.

From one bizarre interlude we cut to another, however The Narrator is now far more self critical of his life and how he has blended in with the norm. This is aptly and bizarrely depicted as our unnamed man walks in between the pages of a "Furni" catalogue (doubling for an Ikea catalogue) as he continues to decry his own life and his frustrations with modern life. From here we go full circle as a visit to his Doctor and his tongue in cheek suggestion of visiting self help groups bring us back to his embrace with Bob, but not before the second subconscious "flicker" image of a man next to the Doctor. A third flicker image soon follows. The film now loops between embraces with Bob and the unnamed man's visits to other self help/support groups and the great solace he finds in the company of strangers. Here he is able to be someone, anyone. Guided Meditation directs him to his "cave" and his "power animal" and another bizarre interlude inside his cave and his power animal follows. Able to sleep and feeling better and again in an embrace with Bob his serenity is broken by the introduction of Marla Singer! Striding into a male support group heavily smoking she calmly questions "This is cancer, right?"

Constantly smoking and seemingly following the unnamed man to every support group, his anger rises as does the ire of The Narrator "Marla, the big tourist" and "Her lie reflected my lie", he watches her walk away from their latest support group, accompanied by the fourth subconscious flicker image of a man. Concocting a speech to give to Marla (which is bizarrely played out as a fast forward) we cut to another support group and of "Chloe" (Rachel Singer) dying of cancer whom The Narrator describes as "Chloe looked the way Meryl Streep's skeleton would look if you made it smile and walk around the party". Following Chloe's desperate plea which breaks the heart, the unnamed man's ire continues to rise and remembering his guided meditation he retreats to his cave and his power animal, however Marla Singer is now occupying his cave!

The unnamed man and Marla are now partners within their groups and they share an interesting joint assessment of their predicament as they discuss the validity of the groups and why they visit them they agree that when people are dying they actually listen "instead of waiting for their turn to speak", however this is a prelude to their splitting of groups, thus enabling both to reap the benefits they both need and the coming introduction of "Tyler Durden" (Brad Pitt).

The opening, breathtaking twenty minutes closes with both a stunning plane crash and the introduction of Tyler Durden. Tyler, a soap salesman and free spirited businessman is everything that our unnamed man isn't. He is confident, cocksure and in control, whereas "The Narrator" (Edward Norton) is an insomniac, frustrated and desperately unfulfilled as he travels the country inspecting fatal car failures and their reasons. Polar opposites, they are drawn together by circumstance and by a shared goal. Brad Pitt and Edward Norton share top billing and both produce astounding, career defining performances. In supporting roles and as noted above, Marla Singer is an acquaintance of both, and is a chain smoking, suicidal neurotic and brilliantly portrayed by Helena Bonham Carter. The other major supporting role, again noted above but that needs further clarification is the astounding and surprising performance from Meat Loaf as Bob. His performance as a "juicer", desperately lonely and unable to cope without the support of his family is both a joy and a real surprise. Another surprising yet smaller role also falls to a rock'n'roll lead singer, with Jared Leto playing "Angel Face" particularly well.

One of the greatest films of all time, Fight Club is not about fighting! Neither does it glorify violence or promote fighting. This was a heavy criticism on release but totally undeserved. The violence is graphic occasionally, with one scene in particular distasteful, difficult to watch but entirely within context. Tyler is seemingly the only character not to succumb to the film's overt themes of human dislocation and a life of "wanting more", to modern living and the corporatisation of everything - cue cut scene of "Planet Starbucks"David Fincher's camerawork is mightily impressive throughout with the camera always moving, the editing sharp, beautiful cinematography and a narrative that although twisting and never letting you settle into the film moves at a pace. You rarely get a chance to fully absorb the narrative, but this is to challenge the film goer. If you resonate with any of the characters, you'll love this film. If you resonate with more than one character, go seek help!

Four minutes into the film you see the first of many flashes/subconscious images and this is a repeating pattern throughout. As is the use of a penis (many subtle and not so subtle flashes and images) and there's a glorious splicing of a penis image just before the end! These images are wholly pertinent for a number of reasons (spoilers won't allow for an explanation), but these are very definitely salient metaphors for the film as a whole. 

One of the most quotable films of modern times and against the grain of my other film blogs I've quoted a large number here. Mainly as this film resonates so deeply with me and a personal favourite of many years and also to give some very real context to the film itself. On the surface the characters described and the constant narration may seem like a film that is a disjointed mess, but this is far from the truth. The Narrator's role is key (note his rising apathy toward his subject as the film progresses). His running commentary from a magazine article whilst describing the article in the first person provides classic quotes of "I am Jack's raging bile duct" "I am Jack's complete lack of surprise" and "I am Jack's broken heart" amongst many more. Separately "We have just lost cabin pressure..." aptly describes the film's crunching realisation towards the end of Act 2.

I love this film on a par with PT Anderson's "Magnolia". You may have read about this somewhere else. If you haven't, can I direct you to my Paul Thomas Anderson film blog?! Differently to Magnolia, there are only four main characters here, but Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham-Carter and Meatloaf provide stunning central performances and are just pitch perfect in every way. I love the openness of the film, with the high comedy always resonating, the in jokes and nods to the camera almost "tipping you the wink" to use an old and underused phrase today. The film takes itself incredibly seriously yet it also winks at you to go along for the ride.

The themes of the film are self evident throughout, of dislocation and desperation of a world seemingly taken away from the populace. Of a loss of identity in a corporate world driven by greed and profit above anything and everything else. And of starting afresh, from year zero and rebuilding a world that everyone can enjoy equally. Much more besides! I have to keep reminding myself that this is "just a film!" It blew my mind on release, when pleasantly stoned, it blows my mind still.

Panic Room (2002)

"Get out of my house!"

Two hours within the confines of a large suburban American house and very often just a claustrophobic Panic Room, a simple burglary goes awry. This seems like a premise for a stage play but written specifically for the big screen, David Fincher adds a real touch of class to make this is a must see film. Swooping shots, from top floor to ground immerse you immediately into the film. As do similar shots "through" the building itself which are similar in tone to Fight Club. The claustrophobic atmosphere builds as we see entire scene's via the use of the in-house CCTV and very early on, all of the character's flaws are evident, drawing you into the film.

Recently divorced "Meg Altman" (Jodie Foster), struggling with her demons of anxiety and depression settles on a new property for herself and her young daughter "Sarah" (Kristen Stewart). After a short period, the house is broken into by three would be burglars, "Burnham" (Forest Whitaker) "Raoul" (Dwight Yoakam) and "Junior", a returning Jared Leto. Quickly the Panic Room, designed as the ultimate safety from invasion and break in, becomes the ultimate confined prison, for firstly Mother and Daughter, then Daughter and burglars. Equally quickly, the tension between the three burglars is evident and spills over, giving the film another added dimension and strand to follow. With only fifteen characters in the entire film, the five main characters dominate the screen, however a vital supporting role is provided by the excellent Patrick Bauchau as "Stephen Altman". Listing any further characters will simply hint at far too many spoilers!

This claustrophobic and intense thriller is a marvel and a worthy place within the work of David Fincher and was unfairly panned on release. Written by David Koepp, with a subtle musical score from Howard Shore, both joint Directors of Photography deserve great credit assisting Director Fincher here, a returning Darius Khondji and Conrad Hall.

Zodiac (2007)

"I am not the Zodiac. And if I were, I certainly wouldn't tell you"

A "based on a true story" tale of The Zodiac, a serial killer in San Francisco of the 1970's and 1980's. Set mainly within the San Francisco Chronicle, to whom The Zodiac sends his cryptic codes and cyphers, cutting away to additional evidence (for the audience in the main), to the often very violent multiple killings of The Zodiac. But what's crucial here is the time span involved, the frustration at the inability to solve the murders, to the character's individual lives falling apart and failing, often as a result of their failure to catch The Zodiac killer. A stellar supporting cast to the three stand out roles briefly noted below are Anthony Edwards who excels as local Police Inspector "William Armstrong", Brian Cox as "Melvin Belli", Elias Koteas as "Sergeant Jack Mulanax" and Chloe Sevigny as "Melanie". There are numerous further supporting and cameo roles, notably Dermot Mulroney as "Captain Marty Lee" and Philip Baker Hall as "Sherwood Morrill". The three main characters are each dissected, slowly and surely with layer upon layer of detail which is painstaking at times, but this is very much a character film detailing their choices, decisions and actions sometimes at odds, often contradictory, but triumphantly so in the hands of Fincher and his three stand out actors.

Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) Gyllenhaal plays Graysmith, upon whose book the film is adapted. Nervous and cumbersome, he stumbles into the investigation by virtue of his hobby of puzzles and codes and quickly becomes a de facto part of the editorial team. Socially awkward, he becomes obsessed with the case to the detriment of his new family. A stand out performance from Gyllenhaal.
David Toschi 
(Mark Ruffalo) is excellent in the role of a local Police Inspector. Torn between solving the case and/or moving on with his life, the character quickly dissolves into desperation and into aiding Graysmith legally and illegally with the task of solving the case.

Paul Avery 
(Robert Downey jr) Yet again Downey jr infuses his on screen character with a heightened mix of the bizarre and surreal. His performance is a true stand out as we again watch as a life is disturbed and pushed to the edge because of failure.
Because of the nature of the story itself (Newspaper/Police/Media) as the viewer you are often piecing the puzzle together with the characters. However a minor drawback is the long three hour run time and often the painstaking detail being played out in a newspaper office. A shortened run time and quicker editing between scenes would have taken a good film into a very good/great one.

The curious case of Benjamin Button (2008)

"Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss"

The quietest and longest film directed by Fincher is a curious choice (pun intended). You are immediately thrown into a split narrative, yet each telling the singular story. We have an elderly lady seemingly on her hospital deathbed, her daughter reading her diary aloud as comfort to Mother and Daughter alike. This is repeatedly cut to flashbacks of the diary's contents, which is further inter cut with cine camera style action of past events. Early on, the cut from diary reading to flashback of past events introduces us to Benjamin Button, and a gentle narration from "Benjamin Button" (Brad Pitt).

Characters are quickly introduced, Taraji Henson as "Queenie" is fantastic as Benjamin's adoptive mother and Jason Flemyng plays Benjamin's Father "Thomas Button" in a very understated, yet flawless way. Julia Ormond as "Caroline", daughter to the yet un-named dying mother is excellent, as is Tilda Swinton as "Elizabeth", Benjamin's first true love. A host of other characters are introduced as we slowly but surely see a growing, more independent Benjamin integrate into the outside world and society.

Watching this unique film, you have to repeatedly remind yourself that Benjamin Button belies his real age, with his old man features in a young boy's body. We follow this reverse ageing process which becomes more striking as the film progresses. The parallel between an old life ending, and an old looking person's young life beginning is often surreal and incredibly poignant.

Brad Pitt portrays Benjamin Button brilliantly. With the added gentle narration, Pitt's performance is quiet but mesmerising. Forever moving slowly and pensively and constantly in thought, every death is met with a quiet stoicism, every social encounter met with quizzical looks, and Fincher uses this perfectly with numerous close ups on his film's star. The other main character "Daisy" is played to perfection by Cate Blanchett. From her early 20's through to aged years, Blanchett is excellent and the middle third of the film shows their relationship as they "overlap" in years, and is a central joy to the movie.

A truly unique film of love, loss, of aging and the passing of time. Although these themes are prevalent, it's also a heart warming tale of life, of our uniqueness and of our individual paths through life. Directed with the minimum of fuss by David Fincher, the screenplay was jointly written by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord based on a short story of the same name by F Scott Fitzgerald. Claudio Miranda also deserves huge credit for the cinematography throughout. It truly is a heart warming and uplifting tale and I regret not watching this fine film from David Fincher nearer the release date.

The narration of a letter to Caroline is a perfect summation to this great film: "It's never too late, or in my case, too early, to be whoever you want to be". Amen to that.

The Social Network (2010)

"If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you'd have invented Facebook"

Not a fan of Facebook? Come and join my club! We serve biscuits! Not even vaguely aware of Facebook and the phenomenon it has become? Please don't let that stop you watching this fast paced, character driven expose' on it's creation and it's after effects on all concerned. At it's core it's a story of the development and success story that is Facebook. However it's far more than that. Via quickly edited flashbacks, we see the historical context of the early creation of FaceMash, the development into TheFacebook and it's eventual final guise of simply Facebook. These flashbacks come from two separate, present day court cases, both of which portray the anguish, the highs and lows and loss of friendships the development of this social network has wrought in it's wake.

Based on Ben Mezrich's book "The Accidental Billionaires", Aaron Sorkin deserves great credit for adapting a tight, tense and excellent screenplay which perfectly encapsulates the time, place and achievements of this premier social networking site. He also deserves the Oscar win for his screenplay, as do Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for Best Original Score and Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall for Best Editing. I have referenced the musical choices used throughout this brief appraisal but it bears repeating as this film and time period is still fresh and relevant that tracks from Super Furry Animals, Bob Marley and the Dead Kennedy's also appear throughout the film, in addition to the superb music throughout and the tracks already mentioned by personal favourites The White Stripes and The Beatles! The music soundtrack is highly recommended as a stand alone piece regardless of the film.

Opening with the crunching "Ball and Biscuit" from The White Stripes and underscored throughout by the excellent musical score from Trent Reznor, we are introduced to "Mark Zuckerberg", immediately portrayed as a geeky, socially awkward, obsessive, compulsive and often rude teenage student. Jesse Eisenberg excels here with a nuanced performance whilst giving it his all and together with the above traits, filling the role with a devil may care attitude. It's a towering performance. Together with the excellent score, Eisenberg also constantly narrates the film as Zuckerberg, and we follow his early development of the various social networks, his awkward social appearances, and his obsessions and frailties.

Inter cutting throughout, from present day court scene to past historical event and back, the film moves quickly, is fun to watch and absorbing, with characters that, on the screen at least, you believe and invest in. Andrew Garfield is excellent as "Eduardo Saverin", Zuckerberg's principal partner and financial backer. The interplay between Eisenberg and Garfield as the film's principal players is balanced well and as their relationship begins to falter we see the pain and anguish this is causing. Justin Timberlake plays "Sean Parker", young fresh and ambitious early creator of Napster and a cameo role for Rooney Mara as Zuckerberg's put upon girlfriend "Erica". Central to the story are the Winklevoss twins, played well by Armie Hammer and Josh Pence.

The closing credits are accompanied by The Beatles "Baby You're a Rich Man" and as the years have passed since both the creation of Facebook itself and this film, it's a particularly apt choice! This is ultimately a film on the creation of Facebook, but that is to underplay it considerably. It's a tale of early life success, of wanting friends yet pushing away the one's closest to us. A tale of obsessions and a desire to achieve a unique product. And as the Court Room scene's perfectly encapsulate, it's a tale of loss, of alienation, frustration and regret.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

"I want you to help me catch a killer of women"

Based on the book of the same name by Steig Larsson (screenplay from Steven Zaillian) and a remake of the original made just two years previous to this release, this became an immediate firm favourite with me. The two central performances from Daniel Craig (excellent again) and Rooney Mara (mesmerising) propel this admitted remake, but it's a stunning film nonetheless. The opening credits are similar in theme to Fight Club and they are accompanied by a resounding musical score again by Trent Reznor. From the outset we are quickly immersed into an absorbing thriller, following investigative journalist "Mikael Blomkvist" (an excellent Daniel Craig) who is hired by a wealthy, affluent and powerful family to investigate the murder of a family member 40 years ago.

One of the beautiful aspects of this film is the quick introduction of a host of principal characters, many of whom are played by a stellar cast. From Christopher Plummer as family Patriarch "Henrik", to the outstanding (as ever) Stellan Skarsgard as "Martin", Steven Berkoff as family consigliere "Dirch", and Robin Wright as "Erika" amongst many more of the finest actors of our generation. Further supporting roles are garnered from Joely Richardson as "Anita Vanger", Geraldine James as "Cecilia Vanger" and Goran Visnijic as "Dragan Armansky".

Then we have Rooney Mara in simply a powerhouse performance as "Lisbeth Salander". Together with Daniel Craig's Mikael, we follow Lisbeth's trials and tribulations, getting a real sense of of her strengths and weaknesses as a fellow investigative journalist. Act 2 commences with their unlikely alliance and their unlikely and unusual love story, but this is both getting ahead of ourselves and spoiling a well driven plot. Lisbeth appears on the surface as hard hearted, cold and distant, but her character is developed perfectly as we see a conscientious worker and compassionate carer to a Grandad/Father figure in her life. A ward of the state, it's never openly clear as to the relationship, but the character is developed with a real sense of duality.

A further "character" to add is Hedestad, the remote Norwegian location where our wealthy and as you are soon to discover, strangely disparate and separated family, reside. Fincher shoots this perfectly. Numerous wide shots of the vast, open expanse is used, always snow covered and cold. It is barren, desolate and unwelcoming, especially to outsiders. A familiar David Fincher style of inter cutting between past and present events is again used, and to good effect, as we are often transported from a flashback to present time with the very same character in the flashback. Another near three hour film, however this never feels that length, nor does it feel forced or overly long, due in large part to the investment we make in the well explored and detailed characters.

Desperate to keep plot spoilers to a minimum, however it is worth noting the violence and forced sex early in the film. The violent scenes, especially in Acts 1 and 2 are graphic and explosive and often jolt you away from the investigative nature of the film. There are two rape scene's, both graphically depicted, as well as a gruesome tattooing session that wreaks a bloody revenge.

Similar to Fincher's earlier "Zodiac" film, in deliberation with the facts, investigative detail and compiling of evidence, this film is a real triumph and rewards well with repeated viewings. Collaborating again with joint editors Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, the real kudos is reserved for regular collaborator and Director of Photography Jeff Cronenweth who brings Hedestad to life brilliantly and vibrantly and juggles the numerous and various other locations similarly well. The fourth of Fincher's films to give me "True Romance syndrome". Anyone want to go and get some pie with me?

Gone Girl (2014)

"All I'm trying to do is be nice to the people who are volunteering in finding Amy"

I am writing this precisely one hour after leaving the cinema on 3rd October 2014 and to badly paraphrase John Doe in Se7en "David Fincher has gone and done it again" because two thirds through his latest masterpiece (and it is just that) I will also badly paraphrase The Narrator in Fight Club because the majority of the audience and myself included thought "holy shit!". We had indeed "just lost cabin pressure". Again, in a David Fincher film. I haven't read the book of the same name by Gillian Flynn (Gillian also wrote the screenplay for the film) and despite the "clues" I wasn't expecting the about turn in the film but it works, as does the hearty amount of comedy, scathing criticism, the spotlight it shines on the ghouls in Public Relations and the soap opera style media that shames and blights our lives today. It is a fantastic film with some majestic performances from some of the lesser known stars of the piece and to mix my film metaphors one last time, it's an hour after seeing this for the first time and I desperately want to be sat in an all night diner with Alabama Worley eating pie and dissecting the film all over again. But alas I'm not! Anyway, spoiler free as ever, here's my take on David Fincher's latest masterpiece:

The film opens with the first of two narrators and an extreme close up on "Amy Dunne" (Rosamund Pike) as her husband "Nick Dunne" (Ben Affleck) narrates how he'd like to morbidly and gruesomely murder his wife before a quick cut takes us to the third of our main characters and one of the film's many star performers. "Margo Dunne" is Nick's devoted twin sister and business partner and Carrie Coon is phenomenal in her first major cinematic role. Nick and Margo are incredibly close and utterly protective of each other and their bond shines through in their early scenes together in the bar they jointly own and run. Their dynamic is a playful one of sibling love but early on (and with numerous extreme close ups of the board games they play in the bar) it seems Margo is the happier and more content of the two. Nick appears distracted and on edge, preoccupied and lost in his own thoughts and Affleck, as good as he is, doesn't shine quite as brightly as his female co-stars. The second narrator is Amy who, via her handwritten notebooks, both narrates the continuing story and provides the flashbacks to 2005 and her first encounter with Nick. Subsequent journal entries over the next five years lead to continuous life flashbacks as we discover a happy, oversexed and joyous couple embarking on romance, life, work, engagement and eventually through to marriage. As the audience we only see Amy in the flashbacks but Rosamund Pike's performance is outstanding as, like her husband, she is also a magazine writer. Her parents are also writers themselves and the creators of the fictional "Amazing Amy" novels however as she admits herself she is always "one step behind" her fictional namesake which comes to a crashing realisation early on when her fictional character is getting married and prior to a launch of her parents latest novel she proclaims, via the medium of her journals and narration "Amazing Fucking Amy is getting Fucking Married". The tone is sombre and filled with regret and although she and Nick would eventually tie the knot in real life it's clear that Amy is anything but happy. Famous from a young age, she is a trust fund girl with a somewhat lavish lifestyle but is clearly driven by her overbearing parents "Marybeth Elliot" (Lisa Banes) and "Rand Elliot" (David Clennon). All of this early narrative is played out through the prism of numerous flashbacks and cast against a black shadow, Amy is missing and Nick is very much the prime suspect.

In support of these main characters are further wonderful performances from Tyler Perry as Nick's meticulous and calculating lawyer "Tanner Bolt", Patrick Fugit as the skin crawling, nodding dog and downright creepy "Officer Jim Gilpin" (it's a great performance despite my description and no doubt damning him with faint praise!) and similarly Missi Pyle as "Ellen Abbott" portrays a trashy Cable TV Host skin crawlingly well!. The film constantly portrays the search for Amy in a modern day media circus style, warts and all, and Ellen Abbott provides the warts and the trash in spades. Neil Patrick Harris is superb as Amy's old flame "Desi Collings" but the film's other stand out performance comes from Kim Dickens as "Detective Rhonda Boney". Boney is thorough, straight and unwilling to let the case drift regardless of the media circus that surrounds it. The camera often focuses directly on her eyes (or so it seems) and I certainly saw the film through both her performance and through her meticulous and exacting looks and touches as she primarily pieced the puzzle together.

To fully appraise David Fincher's behind the scenes team I need to re-watch this again and of course, being the geek I am, I will be. However, Jeff Cronenweth returns for his fourth collaboration with the Director as Cinematographer and immediate kudos should be paid to Kirk Baxter's editing as at times, in line with several of Fincher's best films, the editing is frenetic. The blending of present time and flashback narratives is also mighty impressive from Baxter, also in his fourth collaboration with Fincher. Trent Reznor and partner Atticus Ross also return to collaborate with the Director on the film's haunting musical soundtrack which often felt as though it subliminally accompanied the film without ever being overbearing but again, a re-watch is needed to fully appraise this too.

As an immediate reaction and written as it is just a couple of hours after seeing this for the first time I can safely vouch for the fact that this is going to grow and grow into a hit for the Director, co-stars and particularly Rosamund Pike. Her's is a stellar performance that spoilers won't allow for full appraisal but along with Kim Dickens thoughtful Detective role and Carrie Coon's sisterly role to Affleck's portrayal of Nick, all three female stars deserve immense credit for their individualistic and often tough portrayals. Amy wants to be "cool" and desires what she can't have and will do anything to mould that something into the image she desires. In so doing, the story shines a bright light on marriage, fidelity, loss and the animalistic media of the 21st Century hungry for a story but without the need of facts, preferring ratings and gloss over the real lives they shabbily interpret. Much like Fight Club, David Fincher has taken a somewhat aggressive and scathing source material and twisted it further through his cinematic lens and this maybe yet another bona fide classic in the months and years ahead.

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