Gone Girl

Gone Girl ★★★★

Gone Girl may be seen as an agglomeration of many of David Fincher’s best elements from across his career, as both a storyteller and as a filmmaker. It shares its DNA with multiple films in his filmography. As well as some of the familiar elements borrowed from the likes of Panic Room and even Fight Club, there’s the clue following of The Game, and the procedural detail and patience of both Zodiac and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Like Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo, the pulp concept of the story is enriched with deep intrinsic detail and characterisation that elevates the text – and Fincher once again proves his worth in this regard.

Adapted from the best-selling thriller novel by Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl is a twisted, chilling and amorphous beast of a film that burrows deep into the midst of a missing persons investigation, and how such an event can affect the lives of those involved when placed in the modern age. The story follows the wake of Amy’s (Pike) disappearance, and the circle of attention that is cast upon her husband, Nick (Affleck), by the media, the police and even his own family.

The films first hour plays out as expected for a Fincher film. The setup of the early film is well paced, gorgeously shot, and carries a hard-edged insight into the police procedural. The flashbacks into the lives of the couple before current events are both strategically and comfortably placed with satisfying results. Ben Affleck is tremendous at balancing out both the initially relatable and later unlikable traits of the lead, while Rosamund Pike delivers a career redefining performance that stirs, shines and twists the nature of her idealist housewife image into something all the more insidious.

But shortly after the first hour, a major plot revelation is revealed that completely changes the field of play for the rest of the film. Without going into spoiler territory, it is an unexpected twist in the tale that contorts the film beyond its initial setup into new and rockier realms. The rupture in the narrative allows the film and its running themes to cave in on itself in the best possible way. In and in, into a darker, wider and even nastier territory all together. The entire film expands upon what could initially be dealt with as an 11th hour “gottcha” moment at the films climax, and really dwells upon the epiphany’s effects on both the characters and the world around them. To tread lightly, the final half hour takes the story to a point in which the entirety of the films events are now in a completely different light, shifting the dynamic into a polar opposite position than the films initial set up, and a heightened level of tension and danger that derives from the most unexpected and surreptitious of sources.

Besides the plot though, the film is impeccably well-executed. The direction and cinematography is dark and hard but wonderful to look at. The score, while nothing totally unique in the scope of their multiple collaborations, still works beautifully by winding the tension up well through the same tried and tested dark ambience sounds. The only true criticisms of the picture come in the terms of characterisation for the secondary characters. The likes of Missi Pyle as a loathsome Nancy Grace-like figure, Kim Dickens and Tyler Perry (in a stunningly good turn as Nick’s attorney) are all amazing. That might be an unfair qualm to place upon it when the main figures are written and performed so well, but it’s a lagging issue to note none the less. Neil Patrick Harris is an odd piece of casting for his particular role as a disenchanted former boyfriend. The character fits the world in which it is based but his entire passage within the story and the way that Harris chooses to play the character borders on caricature and sticks out like a sour thumb.

The dour, nihilistic portrait that Gone Girl paints of upper-middle class America is a grim but frank deconstruction of the real nature of the Mr. and Mrs. All-American, and what goes on behind closed doors. When the film exposes how people are forced into the boxed limitations of both their gender, marital and societal roles, it allows you to question how sane any person truly is to put on the face that they do every day for a society that will either love or hate them based on that face value. The scorching portrait of media hysteria is something that wraps around this topic nicely, adding an aura of jet black humour to the proceedings as people must now adjust to living their lives in the lime light that has been thrown upon them under such dire circumstance. While not quite a masterpiece, Gone Girl is a ludicrously entertaining, well-performed, fantastically directed and paced mystery thriller that grips as tightly as any of Fincher’s other films to date, and one that people should continue talking about come awards season.

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