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Fincher’s “The Killer” killed it with several scenes filmed in downtown St. Charles

Lynn Singh

The bustling downtown St. Charles was in for quite a shock last year when “The Killer,” a movie released on Netflix Nov. 10, 2023, was partially filmed throughout local streets and at Hotel Baker. It was already a surprise that big time actors Michael Fassbender and Tilda Swinton were visiting the area, but many weren’t expecting it to be a crime thriller by David Fincher, a filmmaker famous for a long list of hits including “Se7en,” “Fight Club,” “Zodiac,” “Gone Girl” and more. He’s the icon responsible for the infamous question of “What’s in the box?” and telling us “The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club.”

“The Killer” follows a nameless hitman after he’s hired to assassinate someone staying at a luxurious Parisian hotel. However, it isn’t just the target he ends up after, but also the very system and people he works for. As he travels incognito between cities and countries, he realizes just how many people he’s really up against.

The movie starts with the Killer staking out his target and keeping a close eye on the select French hotel from across the street. Hold on, it isn’t Hotel Baker yet, as it doesn’t become a set until much later. In the meantime, a distinctly uneasy mood is already set by the yellowish lighting that goes from pale to sickly vibrant with the progressing juncture, highlighting the varying levels of intensity found in his job.

We are also introduced to the unique inner monologue of the killer, and the way such a narrative device is used in the movie is brilliant. The viewer learns not only how deep his perfectionism goes, but also how much he sees reality as a failure, cold and, at times, without meaning at all. The Killer wonders, “Of those who like to put their faith in mankind’s inherent goodness, I have to ask, based on what, exactly?” A particular detail that really shined was when his thoughts suddenly cut off after he heard someone outside his room, a small but effective touch to create suspense.

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Although the two movies and characters are completely different, the stylized use of inner dialogue is reminiscent of Patrick Bateman from “American Psycho.” Not only does Bateman have a cruelly distinct world narrated in his head, but he is also obsessed with music. Both in the book and movie, Bateman goes on full rants about bands and singers alike. In “The Killer,” the main character is a huge fan of The Smiths; the film contains just Smiths song after Smiths song, and the movie uses his infatuation to its advantage. When the camera faces the Killer, the music blares but dissipates the second it cuts away. The cinematography, music and narration join forces to keep the audience on tenterhooks.

We finally travel to Downtown St. Charles for the “New York/The Expert” chapter of the film. The Killer drives through the streets and several noticeable landmarks such as the Arcada Theatre, The Waterfront, and more become visible. He eventually enters the Baker Hotel as he follows the Expert, Tilda Swinton’s character, for a long talk, and this particular portion of “The Killer” is not incredibly action packed. It moreso takes its time and contains some moody scenery captured within the dim evening lighting.

Although “The Killer” is a great watch for anyone who loves a good thriller, it is also a longer watch despite having a run time of about 2 hours. The pacing moves consistently slow, making it less suitable for those with shorter attention spans.This is not necessarily a weakness, though. The movie often progresses slowly in order to craft a more realistic feel and to get into the mind of the Killer, so it does have a purpose in the plot and doesn’t become tedious. The film just requires some patience to fully enjoy.

Another aspect of the movie that isn’t for everyone is the abrupt ending. Without saying too much, “The Killer” doesn’t conclude with a remarkable, breathtaking finale. Instead, it finishes in a way that, again, feels more realistic, but this choice has its own list of pros and cons. While we might feel a bit let down, that’s kind of the point. The Killer could be a real person, and real life doesn’t always wrap up perfectly or make complete sense.

Overall, I was surprisingly pleased by Fincher’s “The Killer.” It definitely doesn’t harvest terror on the same innovating level as his previous movies such as “Se7en,” for that is an incredibly high bar to reach, let alone scale. However, “The Killer” still holds its own ground. Not only did it have a captivating plot that purposefully left the audience in the dark on several occasions, I also found it so exciting to see my own hometown in a film. Seeing these recognizable actors walking around somewhere I’m so familiar with was something many other North students and I had never encountered before. If you enjoy thrillers, especially those by Fincher, “The Killer” is a worthy viewing experience.

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About the Contributors
Melanie Jandura, News Editor
Melanie is the News Editor for the Stargazer. She is a junior and has been on the staff since 2021. Melanie engages in student journalism because she wants others to know about different topics around the school and community.
Lynn Singh, Staff Writer/Media Team
Lynn is a staff photographer for Stargazer. She is a Sophomore, and this is their second year on staff. Lynn engages in student journalism because there is something special about capturing moments that bring students together.

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