Review: Michael Fassbender shines as titular hitman in ‘The Killer’  

Review: Michael Fassbender shines as titular hitman in ‘The Killer’  
Michael Fassbender shines as titular hitman in ‘The Killer.’ (Supplied)  
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Updated 16 November 2023

Review: Michael Fassbender shines as titular hitman in ‘The Killer’  

Review: Michael Fassbender shines as titular hitman in ‘The Killer’  
  • This atmospheric thriller shows David Fincher has lost none of his touch

LONDON: However tempting it may be, it’s never a good idea to judge a movie before you’ve seen it, but when it’s a thriller directed by David Fincher and starring Michael Fassbender, it’s hard not to make a couple of big assumptions before the opening credits roll.  

And, for the most part, any such assumptions about “The Killer” would be right. This is a tightly constructed, atmospheric, somewhat claustrophobic outing helmed by a director famous for such films. And it is powered by an intensely nuanced performance from a lead known to be one of the most gifted character actors of recent years. 

Put the two together and it’s no surprise that “The Killer” is so efficiently effective, much like its titular assassin (Fassbender). The yoga-loving contract killer is dry and sardonic, prone to introspective mantras and fond of The Smiths. Despite the scarcity of onscreen dialogue, it’s a layered and fascinating character — thanks in no small part to the richness of the source material, Alexis Nolent‘s graphic novel “Le Tueur.” 

When a job goes wrong, the Killer finds himself on the wrong side of a cleanup operation, and embarks on a globe-trotting revenge mission that, far from the glamour of James Bond or the bombastic fireworks of John Wick, relies on thoroughness, attention to detail and conviction of purpose. Fincher wields picture and sound with equally ruthless efficiency, expertly focusing on humdrum minutiae as much as intense set pieces, and showcasing Fassbender’s frightening ability to speak volumes with little more than a fixed stare. 

Foregoing spectacle for gritty worldbuilding would be a bold choice for some directors. But Fincher has the chops to pull it off – and then some. “The Killer” is subtle, understated and intense, as comfortable with the boredom of a day-long stakeout as it is with a bullet-riddled shootout. And the result is one of the most efficient and engaging thrillers of the past decade. 

‘Dune: Part Two’ filmmaker, cast talk shooting in ‘magical’ Abu Dhabi

‘Dune: Part Two’ filmmaker, cast talk shooting in ‘magical’ Abu Dhabi
Updated 28 February 2024

‘Dune: Part Two’ filmmaker, cast talk shooting in ‘magical’ Abu Dhabi

‘Dune: Part Two’ filmmaker, cast talk shooting in ‘magical’ Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI: Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” sci-fi epic will return for round two when it hits cinemas in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East on Feb. 29.

Ahead of the worldwide release of “Dune: Part Two,” the film’s director and cast members Josh Brolin and Dave Bautista visited Abu Dhabi – where they shot extensively in the Empty Quarter – for a regional premiere.

Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve poses for photographers in the Abu Dhabi desert. (Photo by Mohammed Fawzy/Arab News)

Villeneuve told Arab News: “The surprise we had every morning when we were waking up and seeing the way the sunlight was hitting the sand dunes a different way with the mists surrounding us, it was always magical.”

The UAE capital’s desert landscape was used to mimic the planet Arrakis, where most of the movie’s story unfolds.

“I was also really impressed by the logistics of the crew from Abu Dhabi. They created roads and paths in the desert to allow us in the areas that I wanted to go,” he said.

Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides and Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck in ‘Dune: Part Two.’ (Supplied)

US actor Brolin said: “Because we were so far away, we were two-and-a-half hours outside of Abu Dhabi in the middle of nowhere. You feel insignificant when you show up, you know, you feel it’s very consuming.

“And there’s something about the humility that creates, whereby the time you leave, you’re like crying and you don’t want to leave. I feel the same way now, just showing up here. Again, it just all comes back. It was a really powerful place.”

Dave Bautista as Rabban Harkonnen in ‘Dune: Part Two.’ (Supplied)

Bautista, who previously worked with Villeneuve on “Blade Runner 2049” as well as “Dune: Part One” — which won six Academy Awards in 2022 — noted that living in the world of “Dune” had given him the opportunity to learn from one of the industry’s top filmmakers.

He said: “As a performer, my favorite thing about ‘Dune’ is working with Denis and working with my amazing co-stars. I think Denis has a knack for bringing out the best in me as a performer.

“And so, I always look forward to that because I still have that chip on my shoulder where I want to prove that I can be a great actor. I can’t prove that to myself if I don’t have someone like Denis that’s bringing out the performance in me.

“This is why I like to work constantly because I want to become better and better. And I’m an on-the-job learning actor. I’d love to learn from my peers or learn from great directors.

“So, I feel like I’ve become a stronger performer every time I complete a job, especially when I get to work with people, at such a high level, this stuff brings out the best in me,” Bautista added.

Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides and Zendaya as Fremen warrior Chani in ‘Dune: Part Two.’ (Supplied)

Brolin, who plays Gurney Halleck – a mentor and friend to lead star Timothee Chalamet’s Paul Atreides in the film – was more taken by the sci-fi elements of the flick, having grown up devoring similar stories.

He said: “I think that early on, when I grew up on a ranch, I read (US author and screenwriter) Ray Bradbury and (American writer) Isaac Asimov and it just exploded my brain, and I was so happy that I didn’t have to live always in the reality of what was happening around me.

“So, it’s great to be able to go back into it because I read ‘Dune’ when I was probably 16. And it was just along those same lines. It was like a graduation return of the ultimate kind of experience and to be able to be given the opportunity to kind of lose yourself.

“But I don’t feel like it’s a losing yourself. I feel like you are finding parts of yourself that you wouldn’t know you know, through a story like this,” Brolin added.

“Dune: Part Two” is the conclusion to Frank Herbert’s seminal 1965 novel. The film follows Atreides as he seeks to unite the native Fremen people of Arrakis against the tyranny of House Harkonnen, who murdered his entire Great House.

The film also stars Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Stellan Skarsgard, Javier Bardem, Florence Pugh, Austin Butler, Christopher Walken, and Lea Seydoux in key roles.

‘Culture is not unipolar,’ Saudi Arabia’s Assistant Minister of Culture says

‘Culture is not unipolar,’ Saudi Arabia’s Assistant Minister of Culture says
Updated 28 February 2024

‘Culture is not unipolar,’ Saudi Arabia’s Assistant Minister of Culture says

‘Culture is not unipolar,’ Saudi Arabia’s Assistant Minister of Culture says

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia's evolving cultural landscape is nowhere more visible than in AlUla. 

“Culture is not unipolar, nor should it be. It is shaped by interaction and evolving dialogue,” Saudi Arabia’s Assistant Minister of Culture Rakan Altouq stressed after the conclusion of the first AlUla Future Culture Summit. 

Altouq spoke to Arab News on Wednesday and outlined what the future holds for the Kingdom’s culture sector. “This is an incredibly exciting time for Saudi Arabia,” he said. 

Organized by the Royal Commission for AlUla, the summit, which was not open to the public, unfolded this week from Feb. 25 to 27 in Daimumah, nestled in the heart of AlUla’s oasis. 

Altouq described Daimumah as a “microcosm of AlUla, where contemporary art, nature, and heritage converge,” underscoring its significance as a venue for the event.

Themed “Cultural Landscapes,” the summit served as a platform for innovative arts, cross-cultural dialogue, and creative expression. (Supplied)

Explaining the choice of location, Altouq emphasized the historical and cultural importance of AlUla, saying: “AlUla is an area of immense historical and cultural importance. Having the inaugural Future Culture Summit here was an important way to match content with context.”

Themed “Cultural Landscapes,” the summit served as a platform for innovative arts, cross-cultural dialogue, and creative expression. 

Altouq said: “The concept of a cultural landscape evokes the dynamic interplay between human creativity, tradition and heritage, and the natural environment.”

Highlighting the intrinsic connection between culture and environment, Altouq described AlUla as a cultural landscape, emphasizing the deep bond between people and their natural surroundings.

The selection of “Cultural Landscapes” as the theme aimed to spotlight this symbiotic relationship, Altouq said.

The summit drew 150 prominent figures from the global cultural sector including  Lise Macdonald, president L’Ecole School of Jewelry Arts, Laurent Le Bon, Centre Pompidou president, and German curator and museum director Klaus Biesenbach. 

“The Future Culture Summit has effectively brought together cultural leaders from all over the world,” he commented. “They have come to share their experiences and ideas but also to be exposed to a vibrant and growing cultural sector in Saudi Arabia that is really reimagining how we think about cultural institutions, the role of emerging technologies, and ways to ensure these institutions serve their communities.”

Altouq expressed enthusiasm for Saudi Arabia’s cultural transformation and said: “This is an incredibly exciting time for Saudi Arabia. Nowhere is the Kingdom’s transformation more evident than in its cultural sectors, which are not only opening up new areas of the economy but enriching the lives of citizens and helping to build a vibrant society.” 

“The Future Culture Summit is part of the wider project to facilitate new avenues of exchange and collaboration between Saudi Arabia and the international cultural community,” he added. 

With a focus on expanding culture’s role in advancing and fostering positive change, the summit offered a diverse program of panel discussions, immersive performances, workshops, and guided exploration of AlUla’s rich cultural and physical landscape.

During “The Future of the Culture Scene: A Factor of Success,” Abdullah AlRashid, Director of the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), asserted the need for doubt and reflection in sustaining a successful cultural future, whilst Jason Harborow, Vice President of Culture of RCU, advocated for looking beyond the numbers and KPIs to focus on how to extend and expand reciprocal human bonds and learning.

In another panel, “Landscapes: Cultural Development and Environment,” speakers explored the connection between cultural infrastructure and the environment, exploring the integration of art in the landscape. Akiko Miki, International Artistic Director of Benesse Art Site Naoshima & Director of Naoshima New Museum of Art, said: “The journey to a site is part of the experience - taking time and experiencing time itself is something very important for our human activities.” 

Alongside the performances, panels and keynotes the summit featured a range of workshops led by leading cultural institutions, exploring topics such as the integration of blockchain in museums, rethinking landscapes as mediums of cultural expression, and fostering cross-cultural collaboration.

Model Loli Bahia builds ties with Louis Vuitton

Model Loli Bahia builds ties with Louis Vuitton
Updated 28 February 2024

Model Loli Bahia builds ties with Louis Vuitton

Model Loli Bahia builds ties with Louis Vuitton
  • In-demand model is currently in Paris for the city’s fashion week

DUBAI: French-Algerian model Loli Bahia is cementing her relationship with the prestigious luxury brand Louis Vuitton.

This week, the fashion house unveiled its latest campaign for the Spring/Summer 2024 collection, featuring the 21-year-old burgeoning star.

In the promotional clip, Bahia showcased the brand’s pieces accessorizing with a vibrant orange Dauphine bag crafted from supple leather.

Complementing the statement accessory, she donned an oversized blazer dress adorned with multiple buttons, accentuated with white stockings and heels.

This is not Bahia’s first collaboration with the brand.

In March 2023, she walked the Louis Vuitton show during Paris Fashion Week.

Loli Bahia has previously graced the runways for Louis Vuitton. (Getty Images)

She graced the catwalk in a white suit that featured ripped trousers — secured with a thin black belt — and a blazer that was unbuttoned from the center. She donned closed-toed black heels and an off-white purse.

Bahia, who is signed to Women Management Paris, made her runway debut in 2020 at Louis Vuitton’s Fall 2021 show.

She also starred in the Parisian luxury house’s advertising campaign for Fall 2021.

The model is currently in Paris for the city’s fashion week.

On Tuesday, she made a striking debut on the runways walking for Saint Laurent. Dressed in a sheer knee-length beige gown featuring a sophisticated turtleneck, she added a touch of flair with a vibrant red belt adorned with a gold buckle and oversized bangles.

Last week, she opened the Versace runway during Milan Fashion Week in a black mini-dress, complementing her ensemble with a bold pop of color courtesy of a fiery red purse.


A post shared by Loli bahia (@lolibahiaa)

She took to Instagram to express her excitement. “OPENING VERSACE… my best walk for now so proud,” she wrote adding a video of her walk.

Bahia is one of the most in-demand models in the industry, becoming a runway fixture in just a few months after a breakthrough Spring 2022 fashion season, where she walked in 65 shows.

She has walked for a host of prestigious labels, including Chanel, Tory Burch, Givenchy, Lanvin, Schiaparelli and Valentino.

Bahia also fronted campaigns for Saint Laurent, Tod’s, Isabel Marant, Courreges and Max Mara in addition to starring on the cover of Vogue Italia.

Japanese star Hiroyuki Sanada leads the show on ‘Shogun,’ FX’s new historical drama

Japanese star Hiroyuki Sanada leads the show on ‘Shogun,’ FX’s new historical drama
Updated 28 February 2024

Japanese star Hiroyuki Sanada leads the show on ‘Shogun,’ FX’s new historical drama

Japanese star Hiroyuki Sanada leads the show on ‘Shogun,’ FX’s new historical drama
  • The historical drama is now available to stream in the Middle East on Disney+

DUBAI: “Shogun,” FX’s latest adaptation of James Clavell’s 1975 bestselling novel set in 1600s feudal Japan, is a far cry from the popular 1980s mini-series, told predominantly from the point of view of its Western protagonist John Blackthorne (played then by Richard Chamberlain, and now by Cosmo Jarvis).

While Jarvis’ Blackthorne gets ample screen time in the new iteration of “Shogun,” now streaming on Disney+ in the Middle East, co-creators and husband-wife duo Justin Marks and Rachel Kondo were keen to center the story around its Japanese characters.

Cosmo Jarvis as John Blackthorne ‘Shogun.’ (Courtesy of Disney+)

“Shogun” follows the story of Lord Yoshii Toranaga, played by producer Hiroyuki Sanada, as he fights for his life against enemies on the Council of Regents who unite against him. When a mysterious European ship is found marooned in a nearby fishing village, its English pilot, John Blackthorne, comes bearing secrets that could help Toranaga tip the scales of power and devastate the formidable influence of Blackthorne’s own enemies.

In the meantime, Toranaga’s and Blackthorne’s fates become inextricably tied to their translator, Toda Mariko (Anna Sawai), a mysterious noblewoman and the last of a disgraced line.

Talking about the relevance of the book and why they wanted to revisit the story now, Marks told Arab News: “This book has such a great legacy that so many movies, television shows and other stories have taken from it over the decades since it came out. So, how do we tell something new? And, fortunately, when you open up the book, you realize Clavell is already playing with some of these very modern ideas of how we encounter other cultures, how we encounter ourselves within those cultures, and he’s doing so with really great sensitivity. As we began to talk about that, we realized this is a story that has to be told again, already 50 years later, because it seems like we’ve forgotten a lot of its lessons.”

Kondo said: “It almost feels like it was meant to be told again, in that it felt weirdly and unexpectedly modern — it felt timeless. And so, here we are a few generations later.”

Hiroyuki Sanada plays Toranaga, a Japanese lord loosely modeled on Tokugawa Ieyasu, the military ruler who helped to unite Japan in the early 17th century after a long period of civil war.
(Courtesy of Disney+)

Playing the central Japanese character in the show is Sanada, who plays Toranaga, a Japanese lord loosely modeled on Tokugawa Ieyasu, the military ruler who helped to unite Japan in the early 17th century after a long period of civil war, introducing a period of peace that lasted for more than 200 years.

Sanada, who broke into Hollywood with the 2003 film “The Last Samurai,” is also a producer on the show and was keen to bring his years of experience working in Japanese films to Hollywood.

And to make sure he could play the part when he was in front of the camera, it was important to Sanada that all matters of production were taken care of in advance.

“I made sure to prepare everything beforehand before I sit in front of the camera,” Sanada told Arab News.

“So, first of all, we tried to get the Japanese crew who are specialists for Samurai movie-making, then we got specialists for the wigs, costumes, props, master of gesture, master of tea ceremony, everyone. So, we had a good team for each department to make the show authentic as much as possible. And we also had a rehearsal training for the young actors and extras. So, before starting shooting, I prepare everything. So, when I was on set as an actor, I felt freedom, relaxed. It was fun. It felt like a reward,” he added.

Anna Sawai as Lady Mariko in ‘Shogun.’ (Courtesy of Disney+)

And this authenticity is exactly why co-creators Marks and Kondo were ecstatic to have Sanada join the team.

“The thrill of getting to have Hiro onboard, not just as our star, but, really, as a resource, as a producer on the show, was what made the difference between a show you’ve seen before and a show you’ve never seen before,” said Marks.

“In our early conversations with him, we asked him: ‘You’ve been working in Hollywood for 20 to 25 years, what have we gotten wrong? And how can we change the way that we work in order to improve upon that?’ And, from the very beginning, he would just sort of say, here’s who you need to hire on this show, you need a cultural adviser, you need a language adviser, a historian, a Japanese playwright, period pros who can add a little bit of modernity, but also make something feel like it’s a touch classical as well. And these are all things for us as Americans coming into this, you know, that are far over our heads. And so, without having Hiro, we wouldn’t have been able to reach for the level of authenticity that we were after.”

For Sanada, who began acting at the age of five and trained in martial arts soon after, “Shogun” is a chance to introduce the rest of the world to Japanese culture, but sans the Western gaze.

“I think this is a great novel — a great story to introduce our culture to the world. Earlier, our audience can see feudal Japan through Blackthorne’s blue eyes. But this time, it is more like a novel. We tried to create the script, like not only blue eyes, but put more Japanese lens on the script and then go deeper for each character or details,” said Sanada.

Best of the East: Saudi artists on show at Riyadh’s Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale

Best of the East: Saudi artists on show at Riyadh’s Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale
Updated 28 February 2024

Best of the East: Saudi artists on show at Riyadh’s Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale

Best of the East: Saudi artists on show at Riyadh’s Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale
  • Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale celebrates work from around the world
  • Many pieces being shown for the first time in public

RIYADH: Work by several of the best artists from the Kingdom’s Eastern Province will be among the offerings at this year’s international Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale in Riyadh.

Among them is Abdulrahman Al-Soliman, who has been a force in the Saudi art world for many decades. He has also written several books on the subject, including his 2000 work, “The Journey of the Saudi Fine Arts Movement.”

At the exhibition, which has the theme “After Rain,” his series of ink drawings, titled “Palm, Bow and Fragments” (1990-91) is on show for the very first time.

Mohammad Al-Faraj. (Supplied)

Born in 1954 in Al-Ahsa, Al-Soliman told Arab News he created the collection during the Gulf War, more than 30 years ago, and that the paintings reflected the unfolding chaos that engulfed neighboring Kuwait.

“I lived with the side effects of the Kuwaiti conflict and its liberation. I started organically, I didn’t know it would become a series,” he said.

“I’ve always loved drawing since I was young, I would scribble daily, it is part of my life. At school, I was good at art only, nothing else.

Mohammad Al-Faraj. (Supplied)

“Since 1970, I have been making art. And this series on display at the biennale — some in color, some not — I rolled them up and put them aside. This is the first time anyone has seen them displayed, even my family at home didn’t see this. The curators came to my studio and selected them,” he said.

Another Eastern Province artist whose work is on show is Nabila Al-Bassam, who founded the Arab Heritage Gallery in Alkhobar in 1979. She also is also showcasing previously unseen works at the event.

“I was invited to join the biennale and said yes because I am an artist and I have a lot of artwork and no one has seen it,” she told Arab News.

Armin Linke and Ahmed Mater. (Supplied)

“I have my own gallery. It was one of the first in the Kingdom and it’s still working, so I’m very happy about it. But I don’t really exhibit a lot of my own work, I exhibit other people: Saudi artists and others who draw about the Middle East.”

Al-Bassam is a mixed-media artist who uses traditional textile-making processes to produce and create multi-layered collages. She said she was delighted to be among the artists on show.

“What stood out to me at the biennale was the works of Saudi women artists, I really was surprised,” she said.

Nabila Al-Bassam. (Supplied)

“I’ve seen many beautiful works. The installations, the hangings — very, very interesting, made out of metal and things like this. There’s a lot to be excited about. They were large works and they were new works, completely new, modern and a new way of thinking.”

Several of the younger generation of Eastern Province artists are also exhibiting in Riyadh.

Tara Aldughaither. (Supplied)

Among them is Tara Aldugaither, 34, who grew up in Dhahran and in 2020 founded Sawtasura — “voice of the image” — a community-based platform that collects and reimagines the musical histories of Arab women.

Another is Mohammad Al-Faraj, a 31-year-old from Al Ahsa whose work reflects his environment. His playful pieces regularly feature palm trees.

The Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale is being held in the city’s JAX district and runs until May 24.