October 8, 2014 by Paul Curtin
Returning home after drinking at a bar on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) discovers his living room glass table shattered, an iron still hot from being left on, and his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), nowhere to be found. Faced with the realization that she might have just been the victim of a crime, Nick immediately calls the local police to report that his wife is gone.
Just moments before these scenes, Gone Girl opens with one of Nick’s only two monologues, in which he ponders cracking his wife’s skull open so that he can understand what exactly is going on in her head. Getting this brief glimpse into Nick’s twisted mind, along with his overall calmness at the scene of the crime and his apparent disdain for the married life, instantly paints Nick as the prime suspect.
As the police and detectives begin to pick their way through the evidence, more clues are found that lead to even more mysteries. Could Nick have killed his wife? If not, then who did? Most importantly: Where is Amy? “Gone” is the only answer at the beginning of director David Fincher’s latest brilliantly crafted two-and-a-half-hour thriller that will keep you guessing over and over again even when you think you finally have everything figured out.
Those who have read the book will know all the answers since Gone Girl is a rare case of a bestselling novel being turned into a film so quickly and actually being a faithful adaptation. This is due mostly to author Gillian Flynn being the one to adapt her own 2012 novel into the screenplay. Without anyone else able to get their hands on it first and potentially do it a disservice, Flynn has been able to construct a jaw-dropping thriller that works on screen just as well as it does on paper.
Flynn’s cynical writing style that puts our culture and the human condition under a microscope fits right in with other classic Fincher masterpieces like Fight Club, Se7en, and The Social Network. The two working together is a match made in heaven that ruthlessly dissects holy matrimony and the media. Both Flynn and Fincher don’t pull any punches and aren’t afraid to sucker punch you when you least expect it with shocking twists and horrific imagery.
These illusions of the cool girl and a perfect marriage are perfectly brought to life through Pike and Affleck’s superb acting. Unlike Fincher’s stunning cinematography, both sides of this couple aren’t squeaky clean. As the film progresses, the masks that the two wear begin to be stripped away, leaving both partners’ true feelings of resentment, anger, and hatred to be revealed. Fans of the novel might have an issue with certain parts being omitted to make one side seem slightly more favorable than the other, but going into any further detail would spoil some of the film’s best surprises.
Ben Affleck has been perfectly cast as the man whose appearance can instantly be swayed with every breaking news story. Although not as severe, just like in real life with Affleck, the public’s fickle opinion on Nick constantly swings back and forth between support and contempt. The way in which Nick is often caught off guard like a deer in headlights just wanting to run from the flash of cameras makes him the perfect target for the media to pick apart and ridiculously over-analyze.
For as great as Affleck is, Rosamund Pike’s performance is even better. Throughout the search for her, Amy narrates a good amount of the story through both romantic and chilling entries from her journal in the form of flashbacks. But it’s not just these two that help carry the film; everyone who gets screen time shines in their own way. Hell, Fincher can even make Tyler Perry playing a lawyer likeable, and that alone should get him an award.
After a summer of generic action films, I found myself constantly smiling while watching Fincher’s latest. Not only is there a surprising amount of dark humor for such a serious film, but I genuinely had no idea where all the twists and turns were taking me. For as dark and depressing as Fincher and Flynn’s views of matrimonial hell are, there’s one scene in particular that’s especially disturbing… yet amazing. This scene isn’t even anything new or really different, just very graphic and shot brilliantly with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score amplifying its sickness.
After all the ups and downs, some might feel a little empty when the ride ends and the credits hit, but this feeling of emptiness is intended and a welcome change from the norm of predictable storytelling. This is Fincher at his best, and in turn he’s brought out the best of everyone else involved. Gone Girl gets 5 out of 5 stars (Amazing).