Tom Spearing’s review published on Letterboxd:
“Ernest Hemingway once wrote: the world is a fine place, and worth fighting for. I agree with the second part.”
This film gave birth to that dingy, washed-out aesthetic that has since distinguished much of Fincher’s work. The atmosphere here is so bleak and oppressive—it pours with rain almost constantly, every room and environment looks shabby and dilapidated, and each frame is bathed in a murky half-light that fills the entire film with a palpable sense of hopeless apprehension.
From reading up about Fincher’s approach to filming Alien 3, it’s clear he was a stickler for details, obsessing over the smallest things like the colour and consistency of blood, and insisting that filming only took place under very specific weather and lighting conditions. The same meticulousness is apparent in this—from his morbid fixation with the look of each horrifically mutilated corpse, to the painstaking efforts made to make every interior seem rancid and rife with decay. The world he creates here is filled with an almost impenetrable gloom; there’s barely even a ray of sunshine at any point to try and lift the mood. The one exception is the final blue-skied desert sequence, which gives us the false impression that a weight has been lifted and that justice is near, but it’s merely a twisted ruse, intended to catch us off-guard before the darkness returns.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve seen this before and know what’s coming at the end, it’s still a devastating moment. The fact that Fincher holds back from showing us the details of what’s inside the box just makes the sequence all the more effective.
Kevin Spacey may have since fallen from grace, but this is easily one of his most sinister and measured performances.