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17. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: Fight Club

October 18, 2018

Director: David Fincher
Screenplay: Jim Uhls
Starring: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Jared Leto
Runtime: 139 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 1999

 

★★★★★

 

Fight Club is a festering pit of black comedy, nihilism and spoiled picturesque fantasy, yet it also offers up a surfeit of surface level and content readings that bequeath to it significant purpose in contemporary cinema.

 

Based on Chuck Palahniuk’s shaky novel, Jim Uhls screenplay does wonders with its content in a way that only David Fincher’s glorious eye for biting promotional and dark visuals could render. This is a scorching portrait of modern masculinity through its appropriated representation in western culture – and the weight of market liberalism and a capitalist value system on the contemporary lifestyles of young adult men. 

 

We see the Narrator’s loss of identity through the pseudo-individualist pursuit, eventually giving way to his fall into primordial violence at the hands of Tyler Durden – and eventually into more, evolving from the homoerotic beating of sensation back into their lives through Fight Club, into the underground anti-capitalist manoeuvre that supplants it. It's a hub of toxic masculinity wrapping itself up into a frenzy at the state of the world that is moving ahead without them.

 

The film is alive with noise and content, thrown forward with unstoppable pacing tuned to The Dust Brother’s throbbing electronic score. The design is faultless, but this belongs to its players, and while Norton is a wholly corruptible everyman, the film belongs to Pitt’s scenery shredding and star-making role as Tyler. 

 

Helena Bonham Carter’s fabulously loathsome Marla is the film’s sole female voice, and a ruptured representation of post-feminism that draws the narrator to her unconventional manner of approach and vernacular. 

 

There’s almost a killing blow to the film that prevents it from being perfect, that the final movement relishes the abandon of its third act twist and absurdity to such a degree that it almost loses focus of what the film has been working towards. Thankfully, it sticks the landing for a pretty majestic needle drop climax, encapsulating pre-millennial anxieties in a satisfying and pungently memorable way.

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