Fight Club (Special Edition) Review
Along with The Matrix, Fight Club was the end of millenium film. However, while The Matrix disguised its comparatively simple plot with Biblical references and cutting-edge special effects, Fight Club adopts a far darker and more misanthropic world view, from the ultra-stylish opening to the apocalyptic finale. For many people, it was one of the greatest films ever made; for others, including critics such as Roger Ebert and Alexander Walker, it was little more than a celebration of facism and right-wing extremism. However, to ignore the film's biting wit and intelligence would be to make a grievous error.
The plot is practically iconic. The Narrator (Norton), a young man disenchanted with materialism and capitalism, falls in with the stylish anarchist Tyler Durden (Pitt), after attending self-help clinics by the dozen, meeting Marla Singer (Bonham Carter) along the way. Durden and the Narrator found a fight club, where wage slaves can work off their primal aggression by fighting one another. Unfortunately, it soon transpires that Durden's plans extend to rather more extreme ways of righting society.
It's actually quite hard to describe this film further. As the blackest of black comedies, it works superbly; Norton does a fine line in confused and befuddled, a more contemporary Woody Allen, and Pitt is an almost comically macho presence. However, Fincher presents a paradox at the centre of the film that irritates even as it enthralls. Essentially, the film states at the outset that capitalism is evil, soul-destroying and to be struggled against. So far, so Radiohead (who were approached to do the soundtrack, but refused). However, the film also contrasts this with the apparently communist regime of Durden and the violence and insanity that results from that. It's hard to see why critics said that this is a right-wing film; certainly, it presents capitalism as wrong, but it doesn't present an alternative. Whether this is brilliance or cowardice is for the individual to work out.
Whether you like the film or not, there is no denying the technical excellence of Fincher's style. Scene after scene uses visual effects wittily and in an apposite manner, from the Narrator's flat being decorated before his eyes to computer-enhanced sex scenes; certainly, this is one of the most exciting films visually of the last few years. The performances are fantastic; Norton has probably never been better in a role that literally requires him to explore all facets of a somewhat complicated character, Pitt is excellent in an atypical role that subverts his usual charm and good looks, and Bonham Carter finally moves away from corsets and crimpolines, as well as getting some of the best lines, including my own favourite 'Have you ever heard a death rattle? Do you think a spirit can answer the phone?'. Line for line, this is one of the most quotable films you will ever see; it's actually very close to Withnail and I in that respect.
Personally, I believe this film to be a masterpiece. However, many do not, and the bold and provocative nature of the film will irritate as many as it captivates. Obviously recommended, but you probably know by now whether you want to see the film or not...
In a comparatively early anamorphic transfer from Fox, they managed to show that they could do them as well as any other studio. Bearing in mind that the film is often tinted, and that the film stock is occasionally deliberately grainy, this is a pretty good effort. It's not perfect, as occasionally the colours seem a little dark, but it's about as good as a THX certified transfer should be.
This isn't really the sort of film that you'd expect to be a sound showcase, and you'd be right; the film is mostly dialogue-led, with some occasional surround effects. However, go to chapter 8, turn up the volume, and wait for one of the single most staggering home cinema demonstrations you'll experience. And, no, I'm not going to spoil it for you if you haven't seen the film...The surrounds do begin to get more of a work-out towards the more action-orientated close of the film, and the finale will test your speakers a fair bit as well.
A fine selection are included here. The 4 commentaries are variable; the best is a superb one with Fincher, Pitt, Norton and Bonham Carter, which essentially touches on just about every issue you'd expect, and is very, very candid. Fincher's solo commentary is good fun as well, as is the commentary by the screenwriter and Chuck Palanchiuk, writer of the original novel. The final commentary is more technical in nature, and of less interest.
The second disc is dedicated to extras, which are of mixed quality. The deleted scenes are insubstantial, with a rumoured musical number between Pitt and Norton unfortunately not making the disc, and add little to the film. There are a lot of special effects vignettes, multi-angle and multi-audio making-of featurettes, and assorted footage; it's very hard to describe this without showing it off, but it's interesting, fun and not too gimmicky. The extras also contain a lot of interesting storyboards, production notes etc, the transcript of an interview with Norton, some good trailers, including a couple of Internet-exclusive ones, and some amusingly satirical Easter Eggs. Good stuff.
The film has acquired the mantle of a modern classic, and it's richly deserved. Personally, I vastly preferred this to American Beauty, a film with vaguely similar themes but a lack of conviction in its execution, and find the fact that the film was not even nominated for a best actor Oscar an oversight. The picture and sound quality are top-notch, the extras are interesting and revealing, and the R2 disc ought to be avoided, as it is cut, loses three commentaries and a deleted scene, and also costs rather more. Highly recommended.