Film Review: 'Gone Girl'
Opened: 3 October 2014
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens
Director: David Fincher
Producers: Leslie Dixon, Bruna Papandrea, Reese Witherspoon, Ceán Chaffin
I hate being late to the party. I nearly missed Gone Girl (it’s about to end its theatrical run), but fortunately enough, I managed to catch a viewing earlier this week and suffice to add, was suitably blown away by director David Fincher’s dark, twisted and somewhat depressing and disturbing take on modern day relationships, in a film that's clearly another nod to the man’s versatility.
From a riveting drama about a website and the cunning lies and deceptive tricks its founder made to claim an idea that was anything but his (The Social Network), or a tale about a man that ages in reverse (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), to a sadistic and twisted thriller about a maniacal serial killer (Se7en), Fincher has given us quite a few cinematic gems over the years (with the odd dud in between of course).
Gone Girl, an adaptation of a 2012 novel by the same name, thankfully, falls into the former category – it’s a smart, stylish and edge of the seat thriller with wry and witty dialogue and riveting performances, and for once, is a film where all the pre-release hype (I’m referring to the hype that doesn’t revolve around catching a glimpse of Affleck’s penis mind), and subsequent word of mouth, is more than justified (and yeah I can see why they call him ‘Big Ben’ – sorry I just had to shove that in somewhere – pun intended!).
In Gone Girl an out of work journalist Nick Dunne (Affleck), returns home on the evening of his fifth wedding anniversary to find that his wife Amy (Pike) has gone missing, subsequently leading to statewide panic and a frantic search across Missouri (where the film is based).
As the story unfolds, detectives uncover a series of clues, many of which implicate Nick in his wife’s disappearance, in what local residents now consider a case of murder. To make matters even more complicated, when Nick begins to appear more and more unfazed by his wife's disappearance, many begin to question whether the out of work, cold and somewhat stoic writer is in fact a textbook sociopath.
Exasperated by the turn of events, Nick takes matters into his own hands and begins to delve further into the clues and gets wind of a masterly set up, and as the plot begins to unravel, it becomes clear that there's more to the once happily married couple’s story than meets the eye.
With all its misogyny and questionable take on relationships, Gone Girl is not to everyone’s taste, but for all its cynicism, I for one, thought it was an absolute cracker and by far, one of the finest films of the year.
With a set up that hooks you from the word go, Fincher makes no bones about how he wants to handle his plot, and what's more, he isn't the least bit pretentious in his execution. He ensures that Gone Girl's characters are neither black nor white, merely somewhere in between – disillusioned and frustrated with the goings on around them. Yes, their actions are a little far fetched, but that’s what makes it all so intriguing. You’re often left wondering which of the two key players will pull a rabbit out of their twisted hat first, and if it really is a case of cat and mouse, exactly who's chasing whom?
Affleck makes for a likeable and charismatic leading man and continues his run of winning performances after The Town and Argo. Layered and multi-dimensional, his character’s motives never become completely clear right until the film's climax and to his credit, he makes even the most ridiculous situations seem plausible, delivering scenes with poker faced aplomb, never once going overboard. Giving him company and matching him step for step is Rosamund Pike, a relative unknown, and for whom this film will undoubtedly mark a stepping stone into the big league. Pike delivers her dark, deliciously wicked and complex character with equal panache and an unbridled ease, and it's undoubtedly both her's and Affleck's performances that will keep you engaged with the film’s proceedings through and through.
The duo get able support from its supporting players – Neil Patrick Harris cast as an out of turn and creepy yet good natured ex boyfriend, Tyler Perry as a hotshot lawyer, Carrie Coon as Nick's protective twin and Kim Dickens as a persistent detective are all good and pull off their parts efficiently.
The film's music (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross) adds to the sombre tone of the film, while Jeff Cronenweth lights up the frames in a manner that effectively brings out the lazy and uneventful atmosphere of a town, where such a high profile missing person's case would be regarded as the event of the year.
At a run time of 149 minutes, Gone Girl never feels like a drag, thanks to a taut screenplay by the novel's author Gillian Flynn (who probably knows the story inside out by now), and grade A direction by Fincher who delivers an over the top, yet riveting psychological mind f*ck that has you at its opening scene. A very easy five stars, and hands down the most fun I've had at the pictures in a while.