Spoilers don’t talk about spoilers.
Yes, it’s one of David Fincher‘s most famous films to the point that doing it justice with a review is going to be a bit of a challenge. I hadn’t seen this movie in a long time. It was interesting to watch it knowing the twist, but I had forgotten how much the rest of the plot has this rush of adrenaline to it mixed with something toxic that is easily recognizable today. It’s a good movie about broken people but it’s definitely one that should be watched by mature adults. We’re going in.
Fight Club (1999) is directed by David Fincher from the screenplay by Jim Ulhs based on the novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk. The movie has an unnamed narrator (Edward Norton) who works in an office and suffers from insomnia. To get some sleep, he visits support groups of people coping with painful life-threatening illnesses. As he fakes his way in, he meets Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) who is also a habitual visitor of the support groups without being sick. Not wanting to share, they agree on a truce and split the groups so they’re present when the other one attends.
Our narrator ends up being sent on several business trips, on which he ends up meeting Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a soap salesman with a rather antisocial view on life. After a set of strange circumstances, Tyler and our narrator end up becoming friends and living on a dilapidated house. Together they start the pastime of beating each other up. This attracts other men who are unhappy with their lives and who slowly fall in line with Tyler’s antisocial rhetoric.
Tyler considers men have been shunned by society. He’s appealing to the lower base instincts, festering the rage and appealing to the attraction to violence and vengeance towards a perceived threat. He’s breeding sociopaths out of his followers. The subversive message starts with small pranks and misdemeanours until the group is aggressively recruiting, brainwashing and planning large stage criminal acts that range from vandalism to all out terrorism. This is the part in which I can see impressionable minds fall for this rhetoric even if consequences eventually end up with somebody getting killed.
The twist is one of those great twists, which in hindsight does have clues throughout the film. The storytelling is on point. The cinematography keeps the entire film in a murky bog of gritty visuals, on par with its underlying philosophy. Tyler is not proposing anything, he’s embracing the viciousness of bringing institutions and society down, an imperfect status quo for sure, but he’s offering nothing in return. It’s just loving the idea of bringing something down and devolving societal structures into pure chaos.
As a movie, it has excellent storytelling skills and engaging characters and plot. It has a flawed narrator, which means it has narration, and once we get to the famous twist we’ll get flashbacks to cement the explanation in case you missed it. It’s very light on the patronizing bit, but it still feels it must guide the audience enough to not leave too many behind. I do think a lot of the audience might miss the holes in Tyler’s logic. It is a guilty pleasure to see the downtrodden ridicule the powerful, it’s fun to watch. You just have to remember where it stops.
Strongly recommended with reservations for mature audiences. Despite its strong storytelling, the fake message and ideology are fodder for those seeking retribution against their lost privilege. For mature audiences, it is a critique against anti-establishment rhetorics that seek chaos and violence to remove institutions and imperfect societal constructs but offer no solution to fill the void. As much as materialism and consumerism can be toxic, violence and destruction are not a solution by themselves. Worth rewatching several times with an open mind.
That will do for now.