Gone Girl, 2014.
Directed by David Fincher
Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Emily Ratajkowski and Kim Dickens.
With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent.
When Gone Girl swept into bookshops in 2012, it was the biggest thing since slice bread. Critically acclaimed by many, labeled “airport fiction” by others it has certainly made huge waves since its debut. The next step, naturally, was a leap onto the big screen, and now just two years later Gillian Flynn’s novel makes its big screen debut under the direction of David Fincher (Se7en, Zodiac). Surprising to some, but the acclaimed filmmakers track record for bringing written works to the screen is second to none. And once again, he has succeeded terrifically.
That said however, Gone Girl may just be the most preposterous movie to have been made in the 21st century. A bold statement for sure, but it’s hard to think of any other film whose who façade, story and direction is based on one of the most ridiculous plot twists and narrative choices that are usually confined to Lifetime (or perhaps Movie Mix in the UK.) Those who have read the book may well disagree and many consider the twists and turns as stunning, thought-provoking bits of fiction, but if you haven’t picked up a copy, you are likely to have the same reaction as many have had over its opening weekend. Whatever you think of the reasoning behind Gone Girl’s biggest twist, it is almost impossible to get swept up its boldness and quite frankly brilliance.
On the surface, Gone Girl is your run-of-the-mill thriller about a man being accused of murdering his wife, there are many more layers beneath the surface of author Flynn’s screenplay that make the film such wonderfully compelling viewing. It’s social commentaries on 21st century media is pretty spot on, with the continuously news coverage of the story always lurking in the background day and night as the country is gripped by Missing Amy “fever”.
In amongst the rolling news are two opposing news anchors (one very Nancy Grace played by Missi Pyle, the other more Diane Sawyer played by Sela Ward, both very American) hell-bent on making their own agendas known to their adoring public despite the lack of evidence, stirring the journalistic pot to sway concerned citizens into hateful accusers. It’s all very current, and it’s not difficult to make the jump from fiction to reality with some peoples fascination with such cases in real life.
On the other side is the fascinating battle of the sexes between husband and wife as both try to out wit and out maneuver each other, despite their apparent love and desire for each other. The perfect couple in public in their idyllic home with lashings of posh and expensive toys, but it’s in those four walls that a murky side peaks its head as Nick and Amy try to out muscle and out smart the other. And who says marriage is dead.
Fincher as ever is calm and measured in the director’s chair, and while it may not be the directors’ best work, he is still amongst a small pack of current directors (alongside Christopher Nolan and the Anderson’s, Wes and Paul Thomas) that can draw in an audience no matter what he does. It’s another master-class in still, calculated direction with some wonderful low tracking shots that only tell half the story, tempting you to look further and deeper if you dare, combined simple but beautiful framing that capture both characters and setting that brings out the best once more in partnership with new photographer Jeff Cronenweth, who combine again after Fight Club, The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Across the board, the acting here is of the highest caliber, but the film belongs to Pike, who may well be in and around the Best Actress award candidates come trophy season. Having spent the best part of a decade in supporting roles, the British actress is quite simply spectacular as the titular “gone girl” and it should lead to the big breakout this performance deserves. Playing such a diverse character could have been a tricky prospect, but Pike delivers on every level: beautiful and charismatic one minute, deadly and foul-mouthed the next, she is quite simply captivating.
In truth, the whole cast is captivating, with outstanding performances from everyone involved: Affleck delivers one his best performances to date as the self-centered husband Nick, wonderfully balancing the warm outer skin that hides his many deceitful undertones; Tyler Perry, who is still largely unknown to many parts of the UK audience, threatens to steal the show as Nick’s fast-talking, quick-thinking lawyer Tanner Bolt; Neil Patrick Harris flips his Barney Stinson role on its head and is suitably smarmy as Amy’s ex Desi, while Kim Dickens and Carrie Coon provide fantastic support as the lead investigator and Nick’s twin sister respectively, both of whom could also be in the mix come award season.
A twisted, surreal and funny thriller, Gone Girl is another exceptional achievement for David Fincher and says a lot about his brilliance that this entry while brilliant would arguably only enter into the mid-section of his 10 films so far. Ably supported by a great screenplay from author Gillian Flynn, and performed tremendously across the board by all, it’s one of the best films of the year and may well see itself amongst the golden statues and globes come the New Year.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Listen to our podcast review using the player below: