Gone Girl

Gone Girl ★★★★★

David Fincher is very much back on top form with this much anticipated adaptation of Gillian Flynn's popular bestseller. The mysterious disappearance of dislocated New Yorker Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) from the Missouri home she shares with complacent husband Nick (Ben Affleck), triggers an insanely entertaining examination of the disintegration of a very modern marriage ("'til death do us part" will never have felt more of a threat rather than the promise intended) and a voracious culture that leads the charge to assign guilt and mete out the punishment as it sees fit long before due process has had its day. The book's gender politics have largely survived the translation from book to screen (Flynn provided the screenplay herself) but, if anything, the disquieting ambiguity that lies behind the actions of the principals seem amplified further by Fincher's coldly objective perspective.

Affleck has neither ever been better suited to, or simply better, in a role than he is here. His natural affability ensures he is at least empathetic throughout, even as the often lingering sense of resentment for someone that seemingly coasts on charm and looks that has long trailed him begins to cloud our increasingly impatient view of Nick. Pike, meanwhile, is a revelation. Unquestionably the break-out performance of the year, she plays the enigmatic Amy as alternately seductive and insecure, angry and submissive, all the while never letting us fully in. She is endlessly surprising and her selection for one of the most coveted roles in recent memory is a testament to Fincher's skill with casting. This is also evident throughout the supporting parts, with Kim Dickens, Carrie Coon, Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry among others providing fantastic, and in some cases unlikely, background texture to the central conflict in the foreground. For a filmmaker so frequently noted for his visual style and technical expertise, Fincher has stealthily become an incredibly effective director of actors, in more than one case inspiring career-best work. Since Zodiac, with which this film shares a similarly direct, no-frills approach, clinically zipping through dialogue-heavy scenes with little visual embellishment, Fincher has come to wield his authorial control with a quiet confidence that feels far removed from the pyrotechnics of Fight Club.

And yet, Gone Girl feels very much like classic Fincher. It has the mordant humour and scapel-sharp cynicism that informs virtually all of his work, and through the course of the narrative's deviously plotted twists and turns, that familiar sense of perverse amusement begins to seep through from behind the lens.

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