‘The Killer’ could bring Michael Fassbender back to the Oscars

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Michael Fassbender and David Fincher teaming up makes perfect sense. The duo work together so well in their new movie “The Killer” that it’s a wonder that they haven’t collaborated before. Netflix is releasing it theatrically on Oct. 27 and it will start streaming on Nov. 10.

In the new thriller, Fassbender plays a cold, meticulous, philosophizing hitman who must go on a mission to right his own wrong when he makes a mistake on a job. He’s also out for revenge, as is par for the course for a lot of assassin movies. But what isn’t par for the course is Fassbender’s lean and mean performance. We very rarely hear him speak in his actual scenes. Instead, we mostly hear him in a constantly-running voiceover, Fassbender utilizing his rasping voice to good effect. In his scenes, it’s Fassbender’s physicality — from impressive yoga to brutal fight scenes — and his concentrated facial expressions that provide the meat of his performance.

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Here, Fassbender, who has been linked with the role of 007 before, gives us a taste of what his James Bond might be. And it’s great to behold, as noted by many critics.

Lex Briscuso (IGN) observed: “Fassbender is smart and stylish in the role, giving us a quiet but weighty performance that leans into the lone-wolf necessities of this perverse line of work. At times, he seems like someone we could find likable if we met him on the street; in other moments, his ruthless brutality is on full display.”

Caspar Salmon (The Daily Beast) opined: “Fassbender is attuned to the film’s methods, giving us a central character who seems completely blank—we know nothing of his past, and very little of his life—but whose humanity emerges in strange little giveaways every now and then, and whose outlook is gently ironic and questioning. There is a touch of cool to him, in his smoothness and his delivery, but Fassbender also looks careworn and quizzical, a touch mad.”

Rafaela Sales Ross (The Playlist) wrote: “The now semi-retired Fassbender, currently a professional driver in the European Le Mans Series, is eerily effective in his embodiment of utter emotionlessness. His impassionate demeanor is often hidden under a bland bucket hat and layers and layers of beige; this level of discretion at a time where everyone sees and is seen at all times is a significant part of what makes the assassin so terrifying. Look to the side, and you won’t see him. Blink, however, and there he is. It’s a role perfectly written for the ‘Shame’ actor, who features in virtually every single scene of Fincher’s latest in sequences that go from entire days in vigilant silence to a rigorously choreographed fight scene in the house of a thug fittingly named The Brute (Sala Baker).”

Fassbender earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination in 2016 for “Steve Jobs.” Before that, he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 2014 for “12 Years a Slave.” He’s looking now for his third Oscar nomination overall and second Best Actor bid. At the moment, though, he is outside of our predicted five nominees: Cillian Murphy (“Oppenheimer”), Leonardo DiCaprio (“Killers of the Flower Moon”), Bradley Cooper (“Maestro”), Colman Domingo (“Rustin”), and Paul Giamatti (“The Holdovers”). Jeffrey Wright (“American Fiction”), Andrew Scott (“All of Us Strangers”), and Joaquin Phoenix (“Napoleon”) are all ahead of Fassbender in our pecking order, too. However, Fassbender has been off of the radar for the last few years. He has appeared as Magento in a couple of “X-Men” movies but his last non-superhero role was in 2017 for the much-maligned “The Snowman.” This year, however, he has two major movies out — “The Killer” and Taika Waititi‘s “Next Goal Wins.”

These two roles could not be more different. He plays a non-verbose, stone-cold hitman in “The Killer” while, in Waititi’s comedy “Next Goal Wins,” he is a charismatic, funny, down-to-earth, warm soccer coach. These contrasting performances will only highlight how good of an actor he actually is. It demonstrates the depth of his talents and his versatility — and it also suggests he is a hard-working performer, too. His peers will appreciate all of this, as they have done with other recent nominees.

LaKeith Stanfield was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 2021 for “Judas and the Black Messiah.” The same year, he had a starring role in “The Harder They Fall.” Adam Driver earned a Best Actor bid for “Marriage Story” in 2020, the same year he earned rave reviews for his role in “The Report.” Sacha Baron Cohen had starring roles in both “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7” in the same year. He ended up with an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for the latter picture, plus a Best Adapted Screenplay bid for the former.

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