Fight Club

Fight Club ★★★★★

Fight Club is not what I expected, and thank God for that. I, like most people, based on trailers and Internet buzz, had assumed that Fight Club would take its place among the typical David Fincher-type thrillers or neo-noirs of the late 1990s, and while it does encompass some of these genres, Fight Club is a movie that manages to do so much more, with character development, wittiness, beautiful direction, and a real, gut-punching message about society.

Edward Norton stars as the Narrator, and that is the most appropriate title his character can possibly have. He is the definition of the everyman, a lowly worker, living life day in and day out, never truly awake and never truly asleep. Part of that is the insomnia, of course, but it is equally his lack of motivation, of will to live or experience things anew, and his activities that mirror that of a drone, passing through life without comment, another brick in the wall. Brad Pitt stars as the perfect counter to the Narrator, one Tyler Durden, a man who is fed up with the boundaries of society and content to live his life without the restrictions that others lay before him. He, like the Narrator, is alone, but his loneliness seems more fulfilling: he gets the most out of life, because he is content with himself and totally unashamed. When our two principle characters meet, they form an unlikely yet somehow perfect relationship: they feed off each other, and as their exploits grow, so do they as characters.

Fight Club itself, we learn, is not just an underground boxing ring, just as this is not just a boxing movie. In fact, it has more to do with character, the concept of the individual in society, than it does actual fighting. However, the fighting itself plays a key role in the course of the film: it symbolizes our greatest desires that cannot, for whatever reason, be fulfilled in normal society. Everyone wishes, at some point or another, that they could go ballistic on someone else, letting off their rage in a series of swift, ugly punches. Even more interesting is that some wish to be hurt, because pain is what makes them feel the most alive. In normal society, this weird symbiosis is considered vulgar. In Fight Club, it is seen as necessary. The message of Fight Club permeates, as we see in the movie, into all aspects of life, and those who choose to engage in the fighting begin to see life from a different perspective. The power that Fight Club has over individuals is overwhelming, and we see it turn into a sort of business, with exploits happening on a grander scale daily, eventually resulting in terrorism and pure, unabashed brutality. The message that Fight Club sends is powerful and empowering, yet dangerous and overwhelming, and that is what makes the film so fascinating.

Early in his career, David Fincher was not recognized as the genius filmmaker he has come to be known as. Early efforts like Se7en and The Game and Fight Club were not instant classics, and were often met with lukewarm reception, and Fincher fell into the dredge of thriller directors of the nineties. It wasn't really until The Curious Case of Benjamin Button that critics began to see the true brilliance of his works, and he received the praise he had been deserving all his career. Fight Club is one of those overlooked early efforts that was not met well, but is now considered by many to be a masterpiece. Fincher expertly combines humor with depravity, meshing wit and brutality in a constantly dream-like state that mirrors the Narrator's own mind. We are led to believe that everything is an offshoot of his insomnia and thus we, like he, have trouble distinguishing between what is real and what is dreamt. For this reason, when the twist ending (that has effectively been engraved into the collective conscience of pop culture) comes, it does not feel gimmicky, but rather appropriate and obvious. (Side note: I, like so many others, knew the twist ending coming into the film, but it did not lessen, but rather increase, my enjoyment of the movie. It's more fun that way to put the pieces together.)

Fight Club is a mesmerizing film, a truly unique experience that transcends a standard boxing thriller and crafts a darkly funny, brutal, and meaningful look at society and individuals. It features top-notch performances from some of the best modern actors for idiosyncratic but believable characters and offers more that what appears on the surface to create a truly beautiful movie.

A+

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