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Film Review
Jian Yu
In a time when so few motion pictures leave an impact, Fight Club
refuses to be ignored or dismissed. The experience lingers, demanding to be
pondered and considered, and, unlike most of the modern-day thrillers,
there is a great deal here to think about and argue over. Fight Club
presents an overload of thought-provoking material that works on so many
levels as to offer grist for the mills of thousands of reviews, feature
articles, and post-screening conversations.

Pre-release interest in Fight Club was understandably high, primarily
because of those involved with the project. Jim Uhls’ script is based on an
influential novel by Chuck Palahniuk.

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The lead actor is the ever-popular Brad Pitt, who makes his strongest
bid to date to shed his pretty boy image and don the mantle of a serious
thespian. Those dubious about Pitt’s ability to pull this off in the wake
of his attempts in movies such as Seven Years In Tibet and Meet Joe Black
will suffer a change of heart after seeing this film. Pitt’s male co-star
and the protagonist, Ed Norton, is widely recognized as one of the most
intelligent and versatile performers of his generation. Furthermore, Fight
Club’s director, David Fincher, has already made a huge impression on movie-
goers with only three movies to his credit: Alien 3, Seven (starring Pitt),
and The Game.

The film begins by introducing us to our narrator and the protagonist,
Jack, who is brilliantly portrayed by Norton. In Fight Club, the actor fits
perfectly into the part of a cynical but mild-mannered employee of a major
automobile manufacturer who is suffering from a bout of insomnia. When he
visits his doctor for a remedy, the disinterested physician tells him to
stop whining and visit a support group for testicular cancer survivors if
he wants to meet people who really have problems. So Jack does exactly that
– and discovers that interacting with these victims gives him an emotional
release that allows him to sleep. Soon, he is addicted to attending support
group meetings, and has one lined up for each night of the week. That’s
where he meets Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter), another “faker.” Unlike
Jack, however, she attends purely for the voyeuristic entertainment value.

On what can be described as the worst day of his life (an airline
loses his luggage and his apartment unit explodes, destroying all of his
possessions), Jack meets the flamboyant Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a soap
salesman with an unconventional view of life. Since Jack is in need of a
place to live, Tyler invites him to move in, and the two share a
“dilapidated house in a toxic waste part of town.” Tyler teaches Jack
lessons about freedom and empowerment, and the two begin to physically
fight each other as a means of release and rebirth. Soon, others find out
about this unique form of therapy, and Fight Club is born – an underground
organization (whose first and second rules are: “You do not talk about
Fight Club”) that encourages men to beat up each other. But this is only
the first step in Tyler’s complex master plan.

In addition to lead actors Pitt, Norton, and Bonham Carter, all of
whom do impeccable work, there is a pair of notable supporting characters.

The first is Meat Loaf (Meat Loaf the singer), who portrays the ineffectual
Bob. It’s a surprisingly strong performance, with the singer-turned-actor
capturing the nuances of a complex character. Jared Leto, (The Thin Red
Line), is the blond Angel Face.

Told in a conventional fashion, Fight Club would have been engaging.

However, Fincher’s gritty, restless style turns itintoavisual
masterpiece. The overall experience is every bit as surreal as watching
Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. This is a tale that unfolds in an eerie
alternate universe where the melodies of life have the same rhythm as in
ours but are in a different key. Fincher also shows just enough restraint
that his flourishes seem like important parts of the storytelling method
instead of gimmicks. And there are a lot of them. In one scene, a
character’s apartment is laid out like a page in a furniture catalog,
complete with text blurbs superimposed on the screen describing the various
pieces. There are occasional single frame interruptions that flash by so
quickly that they may pass unnoticed. The film opens with a truly inventive
close-up – one that literally gets under the skin. Also in play: a non-
linear chronology, a voiceover by a narrator who might not be entirely
reliable, frequent breaking of the fourth wall, and an occasional freeze-
frame. As was true of Fincher’s other three films, Fight Club is dark and
fast-paced. There’s not a lot of time for introspection. One could call
this MTV style, but, unlike many equally frantic movies, there’s a reason
for each quick cut beyond preventing viewers from becoming bored.

There’s no denying that Fight Club is a violent movie. Some sequences
are so brutal that a portion of the viewing audience will turn away. But
the purpose of showing a blood bath is to make a telling point about the
bestial nature of man and what can happen when the numbing effects of day-
to-day drudgery cause people to go a little crazy. The men who become
members of Fight Club are victims of the dehumanizing and desensitizing
power of modern-day society. They have become cogs in a wheel. The only way
they can regain a sense of individuality is by getting in touch with the
primal, barbaric instincts of pain and violence. As the film progresses,
Fincher systematically reveals each new turn in an ever-deepening spiral
that descends into darkness and madness. There’s also a heavy element of
satire and black comedy. Macabre humor can be found everywhere, from the
pithy quips traded by Jack and Tyler to the way Jack interacts with his
boss. When combined together, the satire, violence, and unpredictable
narrative make a lasting and forceful statement about modern-day society.

Works Cited/Bibliography
. Fight Club. Dir. David Fincher. Perf. Brad Pitt, Edward Norton,
Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf and Jared Leto. 20th Century
Fox, 1999
. Ebert, Roger. “Fight Club.” Chicago Sun-Times. 10th Oct. 1999
. Granger, Susan. “ Movie/Video Review: Fight Club”


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