MOTW: "Fight Club" Review

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

MOTW: "Fight Club" Review

Rating: R (Violence, Language, Sexual Content)
Length: 139 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 15, 1999
Directed by: David Fincher
Genre: Thriller

The first rule of Fight Club is that you donottalk about Fight Club. So is the second. Except in this case, we're going to break the first and second rules. "Fight Club" is an ambitious film based on the novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk. It features a nameless narrator who is disgusted and bored by his devotion to the conformist corporate culture he and all of America belong to. The film focuses on the physical and psychological trauma the narrator (Edward Norton) undergoes as he meets the charismatic Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) and the issue-laden Marla Singer (Helena Bonham-Carter).

The film starts with the narrator (whom the screenplay names Jack for convenience) laboring at his job as a company accountant and suffering from chronic insomnia. He discusses the mindless consumerism he sees all around him, and his doctor tells him to attend a support group. Jack attends support groups for problems he doesn't have in an effort to feel better about himself, and at these sessions, he meets Marla Singer, who is also an imposter. They negotiate which groups each one will attend and when. Then, Jack goes on a business trip, where he strikes up a conversation with Tyler, a soap salesman. Tyler reveals his nihilistic views on modern life and begins urging Jack to let loose, handing him a business card.

After Jack returns from his trip, his apartment is destroyed in an explosion. He calls Tyler, and they meet at a bar. Tyler agrees to let Jack live in his house on one condition: "I want you to hit me as hard as you can." Jack does, and it escalates into a fight. They agree to do it more often, feeling that it helps them reclaim their masculinity. Other disaffected men join to vent their frustrations, so Tyler starts Fight Club and sets down the rules—and yes, it has more than just the first two. The rest of the film sees Jack becoming more and more unhinged as Tyler begins escalating his plans, leading up to a terrorist attack on a major credit card company.

The main appeal of the film is its call to increased assertiveness and breaking away from the blandness of modern life. Everyone at some point has wanted to leave the corporate world behind and live in a simpler time. Tyler's devil-may-care attitude shows throughout the movie, and it speaks to the human desire to be free. A similar thing occurs with Peter Gibbons in "Office Space." On the other hand, "Fight Club" also warns against taking the mindset to extremes because of how dangerous it can be to completely thwart society's norms.

Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham-Carter bring their usual charisma to their roles. It's hard not to idolize Tyler Durden for his attitude toward life. Pitt makes Tyler seem mildly reasonable at first, but his posture and language deteriorate to insanity as the film progresses. It's a mystery who Tyler is at first, and the film plays with audience expectations, but the dialogue and narration drop some hints along the way. After the twist is revealed, key scenes are replayed as they really occurred.

As would be expected from a film called "Fight Club," some graphic violence appears onscreen. The film doesn't shy away from showing blood and gore; the narrator beating Angel Face to a pulp is memorably nauseating, for instance. During the final fight, the narrator and Tyler inflict serious injury on one another as well. However glamorous Fight Club might sound, these scenes show the reality about violence.

Even with the visceral violence, or perhaps because of its effect, "Fight Club" is a film well worth viewing. Viewers will come away with a new perspective on life and hopefully apply it, though not to the self-destructive extremes that Tyler exemplifies. The twists and turns of the story are sure to keep viewers on their toes as well. "Fight Club" is a psychological thriller on par with "The Machinist" and "Inception."

Rating: 4 out of 5

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