At a time when safety is the key to Hollywood's washroom, David Fincher places a bomb under the plumbing. Expect to be shocked, freaked, thrilled and gutted.

Commentators can analyse every ruptured principal until their mouths atrophy. The experience is the buzz and the buzz will blast your brain.

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The protagonist (Edward Norton), who uses many names, works as a crash investigator for a big car firm. Or so he says. He suffers from insomnia so bad that the world blurs between bafflement and boredom. His job sucks, his boss is an automaton, his personality is measured by consumer goods.

As a way of alleviating the eternity of wakefulness, he becomes addicted to self-help groups. Only in the company of those wrestling with chronic fear can he release whatever it is that has brought him to the brink of madness. He discovers the cure to sleep deprivation - tears.

When Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) joins his testicular cancer group, he knows he is not alone. "Her lies reflected my lies," he confesses. "I can't cry with a faker." Marla is on another track. She walks into traffic like a suicide. She feeds off cigarettes and dysfunctional emotions.

A few weeks later, he finds himself on another plane flying to another town to photograph another car wreck and the guy sitting next to him is a spiky haired prankster, with similar hand luggage, and they get to talking.

This is Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), who will change his life. Flamboyant, reckless, uninhibited, he personifies conformity's flip side, that state of rebellion where the paraphernalia of modern slavery is trashed - "When we've lost everything, we are free to do anything."

Up until now the movie has been funny, filmed in a frenetic style, suitable for the director of Seven. Norton is a slacker on Bennies, except his drug is self-inflicted, creating an inability to make sense of corporate rules. Marla is doped on despair and the need to undermine romance with hard-core horizontals. Tyler is way off the charts, capable of starting a war. Instead, he starts Fight Club, based on self-help ideals, for men who need to express inner rage.

Things go from interesting to dangerous, from wacky to weird, from bare-knuckle punch-ups to urban terrorism. Violence comes with the territory. You expect nothing less. What is subversive is the anarchic message, Tyler's contribution to mayhem.

Pitt hasn't had a role as luscious and meaty as this since Kalifornia. He revels in its juices. Norton was stunning in Rounders. He is startling here. Bonham Carter ignores her debt to Merchant Ivory and reinvents the English bluestocking as a North American gutter cat.

The film explodes with energy, invention and excitement. It leaves the audience squealing for oxygen.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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An insomniac hooks up with a man on a plane who will change his life forever.
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Director: David Fincher

Writer: Jim Uhls based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk

Starring: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Zach Grenier, Richmond Arquette, David Andrews, George Maguire, Eugenie Bondurant, Christina Cabot, Jared Leto

Year: 1999

Runtime: 139 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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