Gone Girl (2014)
Rated – R
Directed by David Fincher
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike
For the record, I have read the novel before seeing the movie. It shouldn’t matter but it’s a fact that it does, especially with a plot that contains plenty of twists and turns. You can never relive that first time experience with a great story, whether you read it or you view it. So for me, I loved the book and as for the film, it was a very worthy adaptation.
Novelist Gillian Flynn also wrote the film’s screenplay, something pretty rare in the movie business. She does a great job at splicing up her book, eliminating some characters and plot points, but still retaining the dark tone and the twisty story full of surprises. Of course, David Fincher does a great job as director, truly engaging us in the action and also in the mystery that lurks behind every corner of every scene. You feel uneasy without knowing what’s being said is a lie or the truth. You feel even more uneasy when you start to understand the characters’ motives. This isn’t a film for those who love happy endings, but I think that’s pretty obvious right from the get-go.
Nick Dunne (Affleck) discovers on his fifth wedding anniversary that his wife, Amy, (Pike) has gone missing. A police investigation goes under way as Nick, his twin sister Margot, and Amy’s parents become involved. Nick and the police specifically pay attention to an anniversary tradition of Amy’s, an elaborate scavenger hunt that sends Nick to different places of sentimental value. But as the story unwinds, we learn that this supposedly happy couple have a lot of things they both have been hiding from each other.
The film does its best to imitate the novel’s back-and-forth perspective between the present day of Nick and the police investigation, and Amy’s diary entries from the past that leads up to the current situation. Masterfully, the story unravels to reveal more of the puzzle and bit-by-bit we get more evidence to a possible conclusion. This is what the film does best. The plot is so compelling that it’s impossible to somewhat ignore the characters and to be completely focused in on what will happen next. This isn’t a flaw, but it’s a method that can hide some shakiness within the characters that the movie simply doesn’t have time to go into detail about. While Affleck and Pike give very good performances, they’re over-powered by the complexity of the film and the curiosity of finding answers.
Gone Girl is also a film about manipulation, whether it’s the way married couples can manipulate each other or the way the media can manipulate the public’s view on things. And more times than not, it’s very important to be perceived well by the public, especially when you’re a man wanted like Nick Dunne finds himself to be. While half of the story is about figuring out answers to Amy’s disappearance, the other half is about how Nick can use the media to spin the story to his advantage, which he finds out time after time how difficult that truly can be.
This is an intelligent thriller that splits itself into two sub-genres: the straight up mystery thriller and the psychological thriller. While this will probably make plenty of people roll their eyes that the film is too long, with an argument that “They solved the mystery, why is the movie still running?” but what happens after the mystery is solved is just as intriguing as everything leading up to it. Gone Girl isn’t going to be loved by everyone, that’s a simple fact, but for those who want a dark, twisted, smart thriller for the modern age, this should be near the top of your list.