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Mank First Reviews: Easily One of the Best Films of the Year

Critics say David Fincher's Hollywood biopic is gorgeous to look at and features career-best performances from Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried.

by | November 6, 2020 | Comments

David Fincher’s first movie since 2014’s Gone Girl is a throwback to Old Hollywood, even recapturing some of the look and sound of films from the 1940s. Mank is also a passion project, a biopic scripted by his father, Jack Fincher, and focused on screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz and the creation of Citizen Kane.

According to the first reviews, the movie won’t exactly go down in history as famously as the Orson Welles classic it’s about, but with great performances by Gary Oldman as the titular protagonist and Amanda Seyfried, plus its unique retro aesthetic, it’s sure to be very popular with Netflix subscribers and awards organizations alike.

Here’s what critics are saying about Mank:


How does it compare to David Fincher’s other films?

It’s one of David Fincher’s finest works.
– Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

One of his most personal – and most beautiful… it would be tempting to say this is his Citizen Kane.
– James Mottram, South China Morning Post

His best movie since The Social Network and one of his most audacious filmmaking experiments since Benjamin Button.
– Eric Kohn, IndieWire

The film is pure Fincher — technical and artistic mastery, combined with a script that is perhaps too cerebral or self-referential for many viewers.
– J. Don Birnam, Splash Report

Mank is, markedly, the least-enjoyable film he’s ever directed.
– Nick Newman, The Film Stage


Will fans of classic movies like it?

Mank is a tale of Old Hollywood that’s more steeped in Old Hollywood than just about any movie you’ve seen, and the effect is to lend it a dizzying time-machine splendor.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

The most gorgeous piece of cinema you’ll see anywhere…meant to match the look and feel of its era, as if it’s eight decades ago and you just bought a ticket.
Peter Travers, ABC News

This is a film that transports you back in time.
Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

Catnip for devotees of Turner Classic Movies… Mank [is] necessary, if not entirely fulfilling, viewing for film lovers.
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap


Gary Oldman in Mank

(Photo by Netflix)

Will it have broad appeal?

Mank’s premise and subject matter would seem to appeal only to a cinephile or fan of a bygone era, but there also lies powerful themes of addiction, genius, collaboration, betrayal, and painful political home-truths.
Lewis Knight, Daily Mirror

There’s a way that it’s almost more inside baseball than it needed to be. And that could limit its appeal.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

It will not be everyone’s cup of tea… a film about people sitting around talking, discussing scripts, or even intrigue, is not superficially appealing.
J. Don Birnam, Splash Report


Do you need to see Citizen Kane first?

While seeing Citizen Kane before Mank isn’t mandatory, you’ll have a greater appreciation for Fincher’s craft and technique when you can clearly see how he’s echoing the style of Welles’ seminal picture.
Matt Goldberg, Collider

There is some pleasure in spotting the winks and legends and shout-outs, but… you have to give the unfamiliar viewer reasons to care. By the end of Mank, even I wasn’t sure any of this mattered all that much.
Jason Bailey, The Playlist


But does it honor that film’s legacy?

It only enhances one’s appreciation of the genius 1941 movie at the center of its plot.
Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

Those looking for a movie about the development of Citizen Kane will likely be disappointed and would be better suited watching the 1999 TV movie RKO 281.
Matt Goldberg, Collider

[It] never fully nails how the dream of Kane came to be.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety


Gary Oldman in Mank

(Photo by Netflix)

How is Gary Oldman’s central performance?

One of the greatest performances of his career – which is a statement that should be taken with extreme weight.
Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

A performance every bit as immersive as his Oscar-winning Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.
James Mottram, South China Morning Post

As is usually the case with the actor, he grabs hold of the role and shakes the life out of it.
Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

Oldman is giving one of his more engaging performances in recent memory.
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

Somebody younger should have portrayed the Oscar-winning screenwriter.  This isn’t to take anything away from Oldman’s performance, but to each their own.
Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies


What about Amanda Seyfried?

Amanda Seyfried is a wonderful scene-stealer.
Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

It’s the best thing she’s done in her career.
James Mottram, South China Morning Post

Amanda Seyfried, as Marion Davies, is by far the most human presence, the closest to a lifeblood.
Nick Newman, The Film Stage

Her awards-worthy performance is likely to score her a well earned Oscar nomination.
Erik Anderson, AwardsWatch

Her awards-worthy performance is likely to score her a well earned Oscar nomination.
Lewis Knight, Daily Mirror


Amanda Seyfried in Mank

(Photo by )

How is the late Jack Fincher’s screenplay?

Jack Fincher’s script is brilliant, both in structure and detail.
Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

The script is punchy and not afraid to lean into melodrama, and Fincher is clearly having fun bringing his father’s words to life.
Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

Fincher’s script is wildly uneven, however, but when it hits, it really hits.
Jason Bailey, The Playlist

What the script never quite cracks is the machinery of the creative process.
Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

Perhaps it’s inevitable that a screenplay about the screenwriter of Citizen Kane could never live up to its subject’s greatest work.
Anna Menta, Decider


How does the film look?

It’s possible to go into a kind of trance at just how beautiful this film looks.
Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

The style opens the doors to all varieties of callbacks to the specific and memorable aesthetics of Citizen Kane, instantly making you fall back into the time period.
Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

Your eyes may see the black and white color as too crisp and intelligible to fully believe this is an 80-year-old movie, but Fincher and his team come deliriously close.
J. Don Birnam, Splash Report

The commitment to immersing us into a 1930s/1940s mood is impressive but I wish cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt had adopted the classic Academy ratio of the time as well.
Erik Anderson, AwardsWatch

Why does [Fincher] shoot digitally, on the Red Monstro Monochrome, rather than 35mm, giving the picture an unmistakable (and sometimes unfortunate) digital sheen?
Jason Bailey, The Playlist


Mank

(Photo by Gisele Schmidt/Netflix)

And how does it sound?

The audio here is not what you’re used to hearing from a Netflix movie… it sounds like the type of audio you’d hear were you watching Mank in some grand movie palace.
Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross imbue their score with that same level of commitment to the period that’s unlike anything they’ve ever done.
Erik Anderson, AwardsWatch

Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor also deliver a seamlessly blended and moody score befitting the origin story of Welles’s directorial masterpiece.
Lewis Knight, Daily Mirror

Benny Goldman could have written the score, which nattily punctuates the beats on the type of dialogue Mankiewicz was famous for.
Fionnuala Halligan, Screen International


Is there enough here to care about?

Mank left me oddly cold despite its magnificent craftsmanship… The emotional punch never lands, and so while Mank has no problem earning the viewer’s respect, it struggles to find our adoration.
Matt Goldberg, Collider

For all its crisp and glitz — its relevant post-capitalist concerns and lament for the theatrical experience — Mank is without emotion.
Robert Daniels, IGN

A movie that mostly unfolds at a distance — esthetically ravishing but emotionally remote.
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter


Mank

(Photo by Netflix)

Will Mank still rank high on end-of-year lists?

It’s one of the year’s best films.
Erik Anderson, AwardsWatch

One of the very best movies of the year.
Peter Travers, ABC News

Unquestionably one of the best of 2020.
Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

Without a doubt one, of the year’s very best.
Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press

It’s Netflix’s richest production to date.
Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies

Mank‘s bad parts don’t outweigh its copious good parts, but it’s not quite the grand slam cinephiles were hoping for.
Anna Menta, Decider

Mank is still a treat; for those looking for more, we always have Citizen Kane to fall back on, after all.
Fionnuala Halligan, Screen International


Mank opens in limited release theaters on November 13, 2020, then heads to Netflix on December 4, 2020.

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