Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Brad Pitt,
Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf Aday, Jared Leto
Director: David Fincher
Audio: DTS HD 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 139 Minutes
Release Date: November 17, 2009
“People are always asking me if I know Tyler Durden…”
Few directors have been capable of creating such visually dazzling atmospheres. When you think of a visual filmmaker, names like Tim Burton, Alex Proyas, or even the late, great Stanley Kubrick come to mind. Well, you can add one more name to the list, David Fincher.
After only three films in the past seven years, Fincher has become, I think, one of the most brilliantly stylish directors making films today. He came onto the scene in 1992 with Alien 3, whose visual excellence made up for its lackluster plot. Then came 1995's Seven, one of the best serial killer films ever made. Fincher's vision mixed in perfect with an intense script.
Then in 1997, he created a twisted puzzle of a psychological thriller with The Game Now, Fincher has delivered what I think will be his most superior, masterful film with the one-of-a-kind movie experience that is Fight Club.
The film begins by introducing us to Jack, played to absolute perfection by Edward Norton, who has established himself as one of the great actors of our time. Jack is an employee at an automobile manufacturer. On a business flight, he meets the charismatic, flamboyant Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). Tyler is a soap salesman who has an unconventional view of life. Having lost his apartment to an explosion, Tyler agrees to let Jack stay with him.
He teaches Jack lessons about freedom and empowerment, then the two begin to physically fight each other as a means of release and rebirth. Pretty soon, other men discover this form of therapy, and soon Fight Club is born. Tyler assumes leader of Fight Club, who’s first and second rule are "You do not talk about Fight Club." It's a club that encourages men to beat each other up, just as you would think.
The concept alone is intriguing and somewhat original, but it's Fincher restless style that turns it into a visual masterpiece. Watching Fight Club, I felt my senses being just as much assaulted as the first time I experienced Kubrick's Clockwork Orange. The violence is very graphic, and maybe too much for some viewers to stomach. Most of the fights turn into brutal blood baths.
Like A Clockwork Orange and Natural Born Killers, it's a film that is likely to give you a headache after viewing the first time, but that's part of the overall effect. There’s hardly ever been a film with a strong social statement like the one in Fight Club, which is all about a group of men who refuse to fall victim to everyday society and its rules.
The always solid Edward Norton turns in yet another winner of a performance. His narration helps guide us through this bizarre atmosphere. To give you an idea of how amazing the dialogue in the narration is, at one point, Jack discovers an outrageous twist, and his voice over narration says, “Please return your seatbacks and tray tables to their upright position”. This perfectly acknowledges that he, along with the audience, has been completely fooled. It’s simply amazing to experience.
Casting Brad Pitt for the role of Tyler Durden was a great decision. He is truly perfect for the role of a man with different views of life, which trigger his questionable actions. Tyler Durden could be considered more of a restrained version of Jeffery Goines from 12 Monkeys. Pitt is usually preferred as the romantic lead, but I think he fares much better in films like this and Seven and 12 Monkeys, where he really shines in more intense roles.
Fincher has also been known for throwing a surprise twist or two into his films. He did it so well in The Game and Seven, but in Fight Club there’s a twist that comes way out of left field. Even fifteen years after its release, I wouldn’t dare spoil the surprise!
Fight Club is a brilliant piece of cinema that not only holds up ten years following its release, but gets greater with every viewing. It shows the work of an amazing filmmaker who dares to have the audience jolted at every possible twist and turn. David Fincher is a rare movie director who keeps making one terrific, original, dazzling movie after another.
“We have front row seats for this theater of mass destruction…”
This movie had one of the most outstanding DVD presentations of all time, and now Fox has made its Blu-ray upgrade is nothing short of a groundbreaking presentation for the format. For a movie I have re-watched countless times over the past decade, I can certainly say that experiencing this on Blu-ray was very much like seeing it for the first time. Fincher’s precise and perfected look to the film, which is strong on color and unique camera angles, looks more spectacular than it ever has in the 1080p. And for a film that incorporates quite a bit of what appears to be natural lighting, particularly in the underground fighting scenes, the fact that so much detail can be spotted in even the darkest frame is quite a feat. This is a movie that was born to shine in HD, and the end result expertly illustrates this fact.
“The first rule of Project Mayhem is you do not ask questions.”
With so many phenomenal sounding Blu-ray releases coming out just about every week this time of the year, it’s hard to tell which release will come off as the year’s best sounding disc…but quite honestly, the DTS HD mix on this ten year old classic just might take home the top prize. Again, having seen the DVD so many times over the years, I thought I had gotten used to how this movie sounded. But through the miracle of HD, I realized I hadn't heard anything yet. Fincher loves toying with sound effects in his movies, and this one illustrates it more than any other, leaving the sound mix to deliver one astounding experience for the aural senses. From the one-of-a-kind insane techno-like score from The Dust Brothers to the bone crunching punches to awesome voice delivery brought forth by the effective set pieces (Tyler’s introductory Fight Club speech is a great example), fans of this film are simply going to be blown away by what the lossless sound has brought to an already amazing sounding film.
“He had a plan. To what purpose, in Tyler we trusted.”
Fox has lifted all the great extras from the 2-Disc DVD release and slammed them onto a single Blu-ray disc. We get four outstanding commentary tracks, including a terrific one with Fincher, Pitt, Norton, and Carter that is very informative and occasionally funny. The other commentaries include another one with Fincher himself, one with author Chuck Palahniuk and screenwriter Jim Uhls, and one with production designer Alex McDowell, cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, costume designer Michael Kaplan and visual effects supervisor Kevin Haug. Also included are 17 short featurettes on the making of the movie, deleted scenes, a huge publicity section including trailers, TV spots, and even ads for the movie that were exclusive to the Internet! And this 10th Anniversary Release also includes three new extras. Among the new ones are two brand new featurettes; “A Hit In The Ear: Ren Klyce and the Sound Design of Fight Club”, which is a scene specific breakdown of sequences where sound plays an important role. The second one, titled “Flogging Fight Club”, features David Fincher, Brad Pitt and Edward Norton accepting a most prestigious award; that of Best Guy Movie of All Time. The third new feature is an on-screen index titled “Insomniac Mode: I am Jack’s Search Index”, which offers facts on all sorts of issues related to the film.
Fight Club remains a bold, uncompromising, mind-rocking, sense-assaulting, modern American masterpiece, as well as one of the greatest films of the 90s. There’s never been a movie like it before, and there probably won’t be another one like it again. And no matter how many times you’ve seen it, if you have Blu-ray access you owe it to yourself to upgrade on this title, because it’s very much like experiencing it for the first time!