This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
feedingbrett’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Every once in a while, a film comes out and doesn't meet the expectations or gain the appeal of it's audience, but then becomes a force to be reckon with as years pass and more and more people understand it's purpose. Fight Club is one of those film. This concept of late fame was the same for pieces of art like Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner", Frank Darabont's "The Shawshank Redemption", The Velvet Underground's "The Velvet Underground & Nico". My first viewing of Fight Club was really positive, as I felt that it was bold in experimenting with things that other films had no guts to do. The problem is that with each passing viewing, it's power started to fade and fade away from me. Maybe someday I'll watch this and it would rekindle the fire that once burned bright.
The film was written by Jim Uhls and this was his first film, he would later work on a film called "Jumper". Fight Club is based off a novel written by Chuck Palahniuk. Fight Club's strengths is in it's idea. The thought of individuals being defined by their consumerism is so daring and smart. This may not be new territory but it is done in a satirical way that it becomes highly enjoyable and gives us a different experience of something typical. The film doesn't stay objective with this view, instead they write it as a subjective piece, following our protagonists who poses as a symbol of this concept. The film is trying to tell us to come out of our materialistic shells and show who we really are as humans, which is done through the conception of a fight club. This fight club is a place where men can express their anger and frustration of current society, whilst gaining the experience of feeling "alive". This idea has been explored before with films like Taxi Driver and Fincher's previous film, Seven, but Fight Club looks at the problem at a different angle, focusing more towards capitalism and it's effects on the consumers. The film never seems to go where you think it would go, and I admire that but if only it was written with a much more interesting plot and a tighter focus then this would be near perfect. The film's story is a bit too heavy, especially when it goes beyond the small fight club concept. It's ambition didn't match it's execution. It started to include characters that were at times funny, but never to the point of being interesting. I have no problem with them being there, but the film puts a bit too much focus on these non-important figures. If the film kept all of it's focus on the main two actors and have the rest feeling like expendable/non-important beings then it would have made certain scenes feel tighter and prioritised. It really didn't make a big impact on me when a certain supporting character died, even when the protagonist was making a speech about him, because the struggle and complication that we are invested in is between the main two characters. The film's dialogue had moments that made me chuckle and sometimes they are written so well that they have the potential to become overly quotable.
Fight Club would be David Fincher's fourth film. I think it's pretty clear that each time he makes another film, he gains more and more confidence out of it. Fight Club is an ambitious film and confidence in one's vision is required to tell a story like this. The concept of it's characters and plot is alone difficult to explain. Fincher has taken a story that is dark in it's nature and made it into something satirical. This approach was a good decision because it feels more unique and accessible. Usually films with this topic would take a more serious approach in order for the message to really sink in, but Fincher wanted to be different. Though the film has it's comedic moments, it never gets in the way of it's message, a similar tactic used by Stanley Kubrick on A Clockwork Orange, though Fincher takes it to another level by including sequences that break the fourth wall, including flash cuts of objects or things we never wanted to see in the first place. The film is self-referential and plays around with our minds, which just shows on how much this film tries to make a huge impression on us. I was also impressed in Fincher being able to handle such a complex story and not have it be filled with plot holes and mistakes. Fincher also has had a fascination with visual effects as it has the ability to make a film feel more realistic or gain opportunities to try out other things. The director isn't a fan of making visual effects be so obvious that it becomes an eyesore, he instead uses it to support the scene or the storytelling in order to create a much better film. The film's title sequences was quite well done and upbeat, connecting with the film's themes and narrative, though it wasn't quite up there with the other title sequences that Fincher has made. I think the director wanted this film to be like a big hit to the face. It leaves a mark on us and sometimes it hurts to even think about how real the problems actually were. I found the film's pacing to be good but with some story elements not working for me, it does feel a bit draggy at times. The third act moves with such haste and constantly reveal things that would change our perspectives of the events within the previous acts, which is the reason it always leaves me with a smile when the film concludes. The film's weakest point is the first act as it felt a bit boring and long, it tries a bit too hard on being funny but once you get used to it, it becomes much more enjoyable.
The film's director of photography was Jeff Cronenweth, who is the son of legend cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth. He started out as being an assistant cameraman for a couple of films. He then moved on to work on Fincher's previous two films as a DP for the second unit on The Game and a camera operator on Seven. Cronenweth has finally got his chance to be the director of photography for a film, and did he do Fight Club justice? My answer is yes. Cronenweth understands Fincher, and he knows that the director wants his films to be dark. But Fight Club was a little different from his previous films as it contains a more upbeat comedic tone to it. In order to sell the seriousness found in the film's themes, Cronenweth has created an image that creates a dark and dirty view of the world, while also containing unique and unorthodox shots in order to make the film feel eccentric. Fight Club is the start of a great collaboration between Cronenweth and Fincher.
The film takes an unusual approach, but appropriate for the film, in using an industrial dirty, and rough soundtrack created by the Dust Brothers. It correlates with the film's eccentric style and dark themes, which on it's own makes the tracks stand out. It doesn't flow like a traditional film score as the tracks are mainly just used as a support for a certain scene, instead of having a specific track/score be associated with that character. The tracks are at times quite humorous, especially the track "Ikea Man". Fincher wanted the soundtrack to be more modern and containing electronic sounds and samples, being overly experimental with sounds. The only time the film uses an orthodox track is the one that comes up at the end of the film, The Pixies' "Where Is My Mind". I think with this track, Fincher was trying to suggest that we have gone back to our roots and have been stripped down from our materialistic ways, which is why he has chosen a song that is more simpler than most of the film's soundtrack.
Fight Club's two protagonist is played by Edward Norton and Brad Pitt. Norton in this film was a standout, seeing him play this "common" man be broken out of his shell and gaining this presence of grit and anger, which is something I commonly don't see from the actor. I think Fincher wanted a guy who generally looks like a "nice" and "stand up" guy, in order to create this contrast with Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), who is more chaotic and tough. Pitt was decent in the role, with certain moments that show a side to him that we rarely see from his other work but for the most part I found him to be a bit average. Yes, I cannot see anybody else in the role of Tyler and he was able to give off this presence of power and destruction but when compared to his other work, it just didn't work as well for me. Films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Tree of Life, and Seven show the best of his talent and never a point in those films that it wavers. Helena Bonham Carter was decent in the role, didn't surprise or intrigue me though. The rest of Fight Club's cast were so-so, featuring performances that don't really stand out, which in a way is good because it would have been a distraction from the two leads, which are the central focus of the film's narrative.
Fight Club may be regarded by most as Fincher's best but it just doesn't quite cut it for me. It's certainly ambitious and I admire the film for it but it contains an uninteresting narrative, which slowed the film down a couple of times.