Seven was more than just another serial killer thriller in the late 90s. It set a trend of mimicking Fincher’s dark and gritty style, with graphic and disturbing fetishes added to the villain’s profile. However, none of its successors could match the precision of Fincher’s direction or the emotional depth of its characters. The nameless, rain-soaked city adds to the film’s power, as it represents any city at its worst. Despite the clichéd roles of Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt as veteran and newcomer detectives, their bond is soul-stirring and adds to the impact of the shocking climax. Fincher went from being written off after Alien 3 to being recognized as a major new director after Seven.
The Game, directed by David Fincher, is not as mind-bending as his previous works Seven and Fight Club. However, it stands out for its subtlety and precision. The protagonist, Nicholas Van Orton, is a wealthy man lacking empathy and connection in his life. His world turns upside down when he receives a mysterious birthday gift from his brother – an invitation to a strange game. As reality and fiction blur, Van Orton’s life spirals out of control until the thrilling and somewhat predictable ending. Fincher delves into his recurring themes of identity and transformation in a less sinister manner, striking a balance between darkness and hope. For those who find Fincher’s other films too intense, The Game offers a similar experience without the extreme lows.
Look, the best David Fincher movie is Zodiac – it’s not even close. But the David Fincher movie I’ve undoubtedly seen the most times is Fight Club, his 1999 provocation that’s been on an incendiary-then-misunderstood loop for nearly a quarter-century at this point. The film version of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel, in which an unnamed and disaffected yuppie (Edward Norton) is drawn into the anarchic worldview of super-affected iconoclast Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), reps Fincher’s funniest work. Though he’s become known for his grim exactitude (both indulged and self-satirized in his new movie The Killer), Fight Club admits that Fincher’s style also lends itself well to just plain showing off, and as such convinces you it might go anywhere, even if you’ve already watched it six or seven times. That’s part of Tyler’s, and the movie’s, cleverly insidious charm – to put on a show of rebellion so irreverent and cool-looking that you don’t notice the (quoth the CG penguin) “slide” into fascism. Yet despite sloganeering that’s suckered countless point-missing MRAs, the Pixies-scored hand-holding of the movie’s ending is also one of Fincher’s sweetest. His later projects would have a greater singularity of focus, but there’s something to be said for Fight Club’s range: satire, brutality, catchphrases, slapstick, dire warnings, wounded love story. Jesse Hassenger
Fincher concluded his impressive streak of philosophical crime dramas in the 1990s with a tense thriller that reflects the widespread fear of Y2K and strips away clichéd cat-and-mouse elements. Jodie Foster plays Meg, while a young Kristen Stewart portrays her Razor-scootering preteen daughter wearing a Sid Vicious t-shirt, who urgently requires her medication for diabetes as the family takes refuge in their doomsday-prepared panic room to escape feuding criminals. In this confined space, Foster’s performance is more impactful than some actors’ entire careers, as she embodies an artsy divorced woman turned fearless protector like Ellen Ripley of the Upper West Side, using her resourcefulness to rig explosives, set traps, and trap a thief’s hand in steel. Amidst the intense moments, there are also poignant scenes, such as when Stewart signals for help through an air vent and the camera swiftly navigates through the inner workings of the house to the sound of rain hitting its walls. This could be considered one of Fincher’s greatest shots: the desperate plea of a child, conveyed through mere watts. Owen Myers
Director Fincher has a tendency to center his movies around individuals who tell stories, whether it be the killers who manipulate their victims in Seven and Gone Girl or the writers seeking truth in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Mank. In his gripping and all-consuming masterpiece Zodiac, we see variations of these characters as they navigate a true crime thriller that captures the cultural shift in America when murder became a fascination in popular media. However, Zodiac goes beyond just portraying the eponymous serial killer’s desire for attention in the media. It also follows the police, journalists, concerned citizens, and even a cartoonist as they attempt to solve the crimes and create a narrative, potentially becoming entangled in it themselves. Fincher skillfully weaves together multiple plotlines, clues, and lists of suspects, never losing control of the story as he delves deeper into the obsessive minds of his characters. While Fincher is known for his meticulous and precise filmmaking style, Zodiac stands out for its refusal to present a definitive conclusion and instead embraces uncertainty and ambiguity. It challenges the idea of a traditional “whodunnit” and focuses on who can tell the story most effectively.
The Social Network
Since its release over a decade ago, David Fincher’s portrayal of the creation of Facebook has become less accurate in its depiction of modern history, but still holds true in its overall themes. While we now know that Mark Zuckerberg is not the brooding genius with a sharp wit that the film portrays, but rather a charmless individual, Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin were spot on in their portrayal of the desperate need for acceptance among Silicon Valley nerds. This need for validation, often fueled by self-pitying masculinity and misogyny, has become a prevalent aspect of online culture. While Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Zuckerberg may be based on television-friendly dramatizations, it still effectively captures the mix of superiority and inferiority complexes that drive individuals to seek approval from those they consider beneath them. The final image of a lonely Zuckerberg endlessly refreshing his post for a response is even more relevant today as it offers a penetrating look into the psyche of a different tech titan whose mission is to gather as many friends as possible, a familiar concept for Twitter users.
At the time, it was an unconventional pairing. The renowned director, who was praised and recognized for his films centered on male characters such as the Zodiac killer and the creation of Facebook, took on the unavoidable pop culture sensation that seemed to be on everyone’s radar. But in Gone Girl, Fincher captured the allure of Gillian Flynn’s gripping novel beyond its intricate plot. It was a cynical and wickedly humorous criticism of societal expectations and marriage portrayed on a grand scale, a clever and bitter modern take on Richard Yates’ despairing Revolutionary Road with added sensationalized magazine headlines. What would happen if all the private struggles in a relationship were suddenly exposed? How would people react? Who would come out on top? Can there truly be a winner in such a situation? This is Fincher’s most entertaining film, a darkly thought-provoking piece with an unforgettable performance by a fierce and chilling Rosamund Pike, and a hauntingly grim conclusion that suggests being trapped in a loveless marriage is even more terrifying when a child is involved. Benjamin Lee