The manner in which any good story starts is crucial to the story itself. It’s the bedrock upon which the house of narrative is built, and plays a huge role in defining the expectations for what’s yet to be constructed. The opening titles to this film are fleeting, cut hard to vignettes of smalltown life. Visually, they suggest little more than notions, but temporally, there’s something far more interesting going on. When Gone Girl’s first bit of dialogue hits you, it’s tonally bizarre. It’s unsettling. All of this immediately embeds a hint of uncertainty, the faintest glimmer of the precarious balance the film will begin to walk.
And when the main hook of Reznor & Ross’s lilting theme plays shortly thereafter, the tone of the entire piece becomes a little less hazy - this story isn’t what it seems. In fact, it’s more off-beat from the cold calculation we’d expect. By the close of the first act, we are shown what the film’s bedrock looks like. And that’s where things really start to get interesting.
Fincher has crafted a truly unsettling film, remarkable for his restraint and control over ever facet of it. It doesn’t move or act like the archetypical thriller. The choices for some of the actors, from the obviously fantastic (Kim Dickens) all the way down to the unexpected (Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris) and relative unknown (Carrie Coon) results in a strange blend of talents that, in Fincher’s control, work perfectly in harmony. Rosamund Pike’s Amy is a character you’ll remember for obvious reasons, while Affleck’s Nick manages to never truly be the character we expect him to be. These characters aren’t all that deep, but that’s part of what makes this story tick - we’re never really sure of how deep the rabbit hole goes. And by the end, you won’t be sure you even want to know.
The film’s incredible score follows the same angle of approach, blending off-putting thematic elements that gradually reveal themselves as creatures of context - and nightmarish ones, at that. By the end of the film the same repeated hook will become something quite different from what it was when you first heard it.
It’s difficult to fully unload all of my thoughts on this film without completely spoiling what makes this film so special. But I’ll say this about what you’re in for: Head into Gone Girl with expectations, but expect them to be poked and jabbed, and then bludgeoned. The story’s twists, hintings and red herrings are plentiful enough to keep you thoroughly engaged and guessing throughout the film, while the film’s final act (are we calling it a prologue?) will, unequivocally, leave you thoroughly disturbed. And when it ends, it does so exactly as it starts: full of intention.