A2P Cinema's Featured Filmmaker

Born: 1962, United States
Starting out as a director on some of the most acclaimed music videos and advertisements, David Fincher is one of the most well-known and popular American directors in contemporary cinema. His style is known for grim subjects. Fincher's notable trademark is bringing a realistic approach to the dark subject of the serial-killer genre. His films typically begin with highly artistic title sequences that are among the most notable in the history of filmmaking. For me, Fincher is a filmmaker I felt mixed as one of the very best artists of his generation but have grown appreciation for more and more the last 10 years.

1… The Social Network (2010)

The Social Network takes basic storytelling ideas from classic American films like The Treasure of Sierra Madre and Citizen Kane, blended with the fast and sharp dialogue rooted in the classic Hollywood screwball comedies, all within a concept and ideas that are incredibly relevant today. The result is a film that is certain to be widely celebrated as a modern American classic of it's own. The Social Network wins you over immediately with a pitch-perfect, tone setting opening sequence where Mark Zuckerberg (brilliantly played by Jesse Eisenberg) and his very soon-to-be ex-girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara) engage in a His Girl Friday-esque fast-paced, out-of-synch conversation to which Erica at one point fittingly says "Sometimes, Mark, seriously, you say two things at once and I'm not sure which one I'm supposed to be aiming at.... It's exhausting. Going out with you is like dating a Stairmaster." After getting dumped the film follows Mark in a masterful title sequence as he walks through the campus to his dorm (reflecting both his emotional state but also that of his physical alienation to the social world that surrounds him. His reality is only when he returns home to his computer and codes.) These opening sequences establish the story, characterizations and tone of the entire film, and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin smartly returns to Erica's character a few more times throughout the film.
-> click here for The Social Network in A2P Cinema's 'Moments of 2010'

2… The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Fincher's adaptation of the beloved international novel is (to me) vastly superior to the mediocre Swedish adaptations. Both films are held down by the source material's heavy plot, but Fincher masterfully crafts the film into something that fittingly looks and feels like his films (which in many ways works as a nice companion piece to his previous film The Social Network). Fincher gives this film more humor and a much more alluring atmosphere overall - starting as early the awesome opening title sequence! Rooney Mara (a scene stealer in The Social Network) is given a juicy role here, and she delivers with a powerful performance that is both fragile and tough. The films master touch, is its ending, and Mara deserves much of the credit... It is a heartbreaking ending and a defining emotional portrayal of Lisbeth Salander.

3… Zodiac (2007)

Zodiac is likely the consensus critical choice for Fincher's best film and I understand that. It's masterfully crafted and such a definitive film of its own filmmaker in its study of obsession…..After a five year hiatus from filmmaking, Fincher returns to the serial killer mystery thriller genre that resulted in his best film (to me anyway) Seven, which was made in 1995. Here however, Fincher is working with a true story (based off the books by Robert Graysmith, which detail the facts about the still unsolved case of the Zodiac killings in San Francisco during the 1960s and 1970s). As such, Fincher treats the subject with far with an approach that is less philosophical and thrilling then Seven, instead focusing more on the investigation. In other words, Zodiac is less stylized then Seven instead aiming for realism, while still remaining an effective genre suspense film. Those familiar with the facts, details, and history of the case are likely not to be surprised by everything that unfolds. What pushes the film beyond the level of a simple crime detective film is that Zodiac is ultimately more centered around the key characters obsession with case and how the obsession consumes their lives. It is here that the film grasps it's emotional humanity and Fincher along with screenwriter James Vanderbilt never lose focus of this element, even at a lengthy 158 minute running time. As the final title cards indicate, the case remains unsolved and Robert Graysmith's obsession with the case remains. It is this obsession that makes the film most haunting.

4… Seven (1995)

The first film dealing with a genre Fincher would (and has) continue throughout his career - serial killer. Seven is also a film that details one of Fincher's finest trademarks as an artistic filmmaker - opening title sequence. Seven's brilliant opening credits immediately establish the films grim and philosophical tone as well as its layered meanings. The film has become notorious for its famous ending but what raises this film to great heights is the way it does not exploit its anguish.

5… The Game (1997)

Paranoid head games drives this film and its strength is the looming sense of dread that builds. Michael Douglas gives a convincing lead performance. The films ending does feel off and too well put together in a way that seems forced or inconsistent with the rest of the film but only slightly and not enough to ruin what is overall a very good film. Everything prior to that it is very involving and well shot , paced and performed.

6… The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a beautifully visual film. Fincher adapts Eric Roth's screenplay based off F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story. The film deals with time (life and death) but is ultimately a tragic love story, in that it follows the lives of two people meant for each other but sadly on opposite timelines of life. While the screenplay (which shares many structure comparisons to Roth's Forrest Gump screenplay) occasionally feels rushed or sometimes hollow, the beauty and emotion of the film comes from the visuals (be it the radiant presence of Cate Blanchett, the seamless digital effects, or the stunning deep composition cinematography by Claudio Miranda).

7… Mank (2020)

Mank is a longtime project for Fincher, who's dad wrote the screenplay before his death. Fincher structures this film in a style and approach similar to that of the film it is centered around - Citizen Kane particularly with its use of narrative flashbacks. Mank is superb from a technical level and it looks/feels very much as if it's a film from the 1930s-early 1940s right to the tiniest of details. Overall I wanted to enjoy this film more that I did but it struggles to invest you emotionally (even for those who appreciate old Hollywood) and it doesn't offer much outside of its technical achievements which are enough to make this a good film.

8… Gone Girl (2014)

There is a campy tone that Gone Girl embraces which makes it entertaining but overall this film is hurt by its own overplotting. Gone Girl does have some fine performances notably by the supporting characters and Fincher does a fine job of creating the films solemn approach, and he provides his usual slick style and pacing.

9… Panic Room (2002)

Fincher gives this standard genre thriller all he can in style with flashy camera movement and slo-motion. Ultimately he gets his hand in it a little too much technically as the film plays out best when played straight-forward and in real time. Panic Room is entertaining all the way through even if its nothing all to memorable afterwards.

10… Fight Club (1999)

Fight Club has a huge cult following and I get it, but it just doesn't work for me. I love the early promise of this film but it gradually loses me more and more from the second half on to its gimmicky twist and heavy-handed conclusion, which to me is not as profound as it seems to be intended.

11… Alien 3 (1992)

With Fincher's first film, you can see the visual skills of a gifted filmmaker in the way it uses dolly shots and impressive claustrophobic atmosphere. Too bad it all is made in a really bad film… one that completely throws away everything great about the previous Alien film. As a big fan of that 1986 film, I'm strongly of the belief this should not have been made!