Over the years – and particularly in the Daniel Craig era – the James Bond series has wrestled with a question around its central agent: is he really little more than a well-dressed, government-endorsed hitman? A gun for hire, albeit for queen and country? Ultimately, that mostly turns out not to be the case – Bond is less a straight-up assassin, more a super-spy, a sleuth, a servant and protector of the nation. But make no mistake: the sharp-shooting title character of David Fincher’s upcoming thriller The Killer is the epitome of a cold-blooded triggerman, whose strict rules of engagement are about to get seriously messy. And he doesn’t have a license to kill. “He’s not James Bond,” Fincher tells Empire. “Our guy flies coach.”
The nameless protagonist of The Killer has a methodical approach to his hit-jobs. But when an assassination goes awry, his whole system is thrown into disarray. For Fincher – a director with an incredible hit-rate when it comes to delivering slick, stylish, propulsive thrills – zoning in on a character so cold and calculating offered both a challenge and an opportunity: how do you bring an audience into that headspace? The comic book source material, from Matz and Luc Jacamon, had the solution. “I thought the character’s nihilism was interesting, because it was tied to his self-loathing,” the director explains. “Then I started thinking about this inner monologue. He has this whole thing he tells himself, which is a way of demeaning his prey so he can feel better about ostensibly being a serial killer for hire. I thought that could be interesting to navigate.”
The effect is that, as brutal as The Killer is, you’re along for the ride wherever he goes. “I like the pact a voiceover makes with the viewer,” says Fincher. “Seeing life through the eyes – and scope – of an assassin puts the audience in an interesting position. Let’s see how far they’ll go.” 007 wouldn’t stand a chance.
Read Empire’s full The Killer feature – going on set with David Fincher, Michael Fassbender, Tilda Swinton and more – in the November 2023 issue. Plus, this month’s magazine is an epic David Fincher special, looking back on his legendary filmography, with the director himself revisiting his most iconic shots. The issue hits newsstands from Thursday 28 September. Pre-order a copy online here, or become an Empire member to access the digital edition on launch day. The Killer is in cinemas from 27 October and streaming on Netflix from 10 November.