David Fincher is wildly regarded as one of the best filmmakers working today. From 1993’s Alien 3 to 2014’s Gone Girl, Fincher’s vision has always been fully displayed as his direction is both cerebral and masterful. Like 2010’s The Social Network, Fincher has kicked off the decade with another instant classic, Mank.
A film that, while surprisingly relevant to today’s political climate and divide, impeccably captures the films of yesteryear and can easily be mistaken for an Alfred Hitchcock directed film and what may go down as “the best Hitchcock film that Hitchcock never made.”
Mank follows one of the members of the legendary Mankiewicz family, Herman J. Mankiewicz, the down on his luck alcoholic who is chosen to write the script for “Hollywood golden boy” Orson Welles for a film that is widely considered one, if not the most excellent films ever made, Citizen Kane.
On the surface, the film’s premise may sound like a straightforward narrative, but that is far from the truth. Similar to Citizen Kane, writer Jack Fincher’s posthumous achievement weaves between the past and the present as cinephiles look at not only the shift from the silent film era to the talkies but a dive into the politics of the age where communism and socialism are taboo words and the power of the media is not just revolved around the film industry but also with elections. Mank examines an era of Hollywood run by the corrupt elite whose film choices in their studios were funded by political pockets.
Jack Fincher’s script is a powerhouse. His son David Fincher’s direction is top tier. Mank is a directorial and technical marvel. From its opening shot, we enter a time capsule of 1930-40s films. As an avid watcher of films from that era, the film’s sound design adds a layer of authenticity. While subtle, it shows how Fincher’s attention to detail is another reason why he remains one of the industry’s best directors today.
Regarding its performances, Mank offers some of the year’s best, led by Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried. Oldman is a tour de force in his portrayal of Herman Mankiewicz. While sometimes coming close to chewing up the screen, Oldman’s take shows Mank as a man who owns every room he enters with confidence and intellect. Seyfried offers a career-best as she encaptures Marion Davies as charming and provides a full understanding of who she is and who she is associated with.
As mentioned before, Fincher’s direction and the film’s technical aspects are the best of the year. The most prominent element of the film is Erik Messerschmidt’s black and white cinematography. It’s hard to believe this is Messerschmidt’s first film as Director of Photography because it is a sight to behold and is the year’s best-shot film. Along with paying homage to Orson Welles and Citizen Kane in individual shots, Messerschmidt makes Mank look as though the film was made at the start of the talkie era. Throughout the years, there have been many films that have attempted to replicate Hollywood, but Mank captures that perhaps more so than any other prior contemporary attempt.
Fincher regulars Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are back to score the film. To the surprise of no one, the duo turns in another Academy Award nomination worthy score, as the music throughout perfectly captures the era.
In a year that will surely not be forgotten, David Fincher’s Mank is the final cherry on top of the film year. Oldman delivers the line, “If you keep telling people something untrue, loud and long enough, they’re apt to believe it.”
In the case of Mank, the most accurate statement that can be said is that it is one of the best films of the year.