Paul Lister’s review published on Letterboxd:
"This is your life and it's ending one minute at a time."
Please accept my apology when I tell you I am going to break the first two rules of Fight Club! Yes I am going to talk about David Fincher's masterpiece of anti consumerism, anti corporation, anti self improvement - hell, anti almost everything - and violent tale of masculinity. It's a blacker than black comedy that mocks us for being something we are expected to be, rather than who we really are. We the audience are Ed Norton's character at the beginning of the film, living a lie wrapped up in needless bullshit and commodities. But our protagonist is sick and tired - quite literally as he suffers from insomnia - or his life, not that he would ever do anything about it. That is, however, about to change when he meets the charismatic Tyler Durden, a man seemingly ticking every box on the 'everything I'm not, but would like to be' list. The problem is that Tyler Durden seems to also have a few thoughts and feelings that are a bit too over the cliff of insanity.
After a pulsating, rapid and epileptic opening titles sequence - which straight away highlights the fantastic music by The Dust Brothers - we arrive looking down the barrel of a gun, pointed directly into the mouth of our 'hero' played by Ed Norton. He delivers a fantastically detached voice over through out the film and straight away gives off the impression of someone at odds with the humdrum life. He introduces us to Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), the man with the gun down his throat but quickly takes us back to the beginning of the story and his meeting with Marla Singer (an outstandingly filthy looking Helena Bonham Carter), whom he meets at various 'groups' for people suffering from various conditions, afflictions and addictions. Of course nether of the two actually suffer any of these problems, our main character only goes so he can cry which helps him sleep like a baby, of course Marla's presence as a 'faker' leaves the completely hypocritical Norton deeply perturbed and it leaves him back where he started, deeply unfulfilled and without sleep.
But this doesn't get us to the point of meeting Tyler Durden, whom he meets on a plane. Norton is astonished by the way in which Durden just cuts through the banal chit chat and gets down to the finer points, making reference to his soap making business, the 'real' reason why airlines supply oxygen masks and a business card which will come in handy seen as though Norton returns home to see his perfect Ikea home blown to smithereens! He contemplates calling Marla but for reasons unknown calls Durden instead. What happens next is where the real fun begins!
After exiting a bar, Norton still can't ask Durden if he can stay at his home, despite it being plainly obvious that was his intention. It highlights Norton's weak sense of character compared to the forthright Durden who urges him to just ask. Once that matter is settled though Durden asks, "I want you to hit me as hard as you can!" One of many moments in Fight Club that will forever be etched into my memory. What ensues is a brutal bout of violence, the first punch that Norton throws did actually make contact with Pitt too, who isn't acting in his pained reaction! Soon after Norton has moved into Durden's residence on Paper Street, a dilapidated house that looks as if it is going to collapse in on itself at any moment, Durden clearly lives a different live to Norton's character.
The film then moves into the territory of Fight Club itself, an exclusive underground club where anyone is anybody - or nobody - can leave their meaningless lives ruled by corporate consumerism and beat seven shades of shit out of each other. The 'Rules of Fight Club' are now another part of this film that will be forever etched into popular culture. Fight Club soon takes on more and more members, seemingly breaking the first two rules in the process. The increase in notoriety allows Durden to carry out more of his ambitions and the anarchic Project Mayhem is set up, but you aren't allowed to ask questions.
As Project Mayhem - and Norton's character - spiral out of control we begin to sense that something is not right, the way in which Norton reacts to Marla, or vice versa, gives off the biggest hint, but moments like the self beating Norton dishes out to himself in front of his boss also stand out as he refers to the moment when he and Durden first fought, but why would this remind him of that, I wonder? Incidentally that scene is one of my favourites, firstly because the look on his bosses face is quite simply priceless and also because the music that kicks in the moment he drops his phone absolutely kills me, it is so dark and moody but also just so fucking cool.
It is strange how cool a film about not being cool and fashionable - in the general definition - is. The labels on your clothes don't make you cool, the fact you drink at Starbucks or wear Gucci doesn't make you cool, it makes you a slave, nothing more than a digit in a world full of numbers. In all honesty I don't really share the world view of Fight Club, I generally believe in the idea of what makes you happy makes you happy but it is a point stylishly and forcefully made by David Fincher and it is so crammed full of blackly humorous moments and blood splattering violence that seems to be just as black. The films is so quotable as well, how about every "I am Jack's..." line or the "You are not your fucking Khakis!", "The things you own end up owning you." or the entirety of the Fight Club 'rules', "The First rule is you do not talk about Fight Club!". You have to credit Chuck Palahniuk - the original novels author - and screenwriter Jim Uhls for being able to fit them all in!
Some of my favourite moments are the dark humour, whether it is derived from the anarchic protestations against corporations, the moment where the 'Space Monkeys' pick a fight with a general member of the public just to lose or the moment we see Norton throwing himself down stairwells on TV monitors. The humour is just pitch black and devilishly good!
But before I go how could I not talk about Tyler Durden some more. The role that Brad Pitt was born to play, he is the definition of cool, attractive and free. Free of bullshit, free of commitment, free of self improvement. If he wants something he goes after it. It is Pitt's best role but it is also his best performances too, it's great to see him go wild against the boss of the bar the original Fight Club use to host meetings, his body is chiseled to perfection - although it slightly goes against the whole self improvement criticism in my book - and he does a mean Bruce Lee impression at the end! The moment that hits home though is the twist, I alluded to it already but that moment for me as a youngster was the twist ending, there was nothing like it! Twist endings can destroy movies but here Fight Club just nails it, I completely believe it, even if you can question some of the finer points.
I have lived with Fight Club for about thirteen years now, it is hard to believe it is that old. My opinions have wavered on it too. When I was younger this was one of my top ten favourite movies ever - I hadn't seen half as many as I have now of course - it was ultra cool and violent and it seemed to speak to me. During my uni days though I went right off it, I don't know why maybe I had just grown tired of it's relentless world view and entirely grimy and dirty visual style - seriously that house on Paper Street is repugnant and don't get me started on the moment they rip the bag of fat open - but ultimately in the last couple of years I have come back around. Fight Club seems unique to me, I cannot think of any other films like it and David Fincher should be commended for that alone. it is again a singular vision from a man whose first experience in feature film making was anything but. He hasn't made anything quite like it since but then again who has and who could? This is Fincher at is brilliant best!