Director: David Fincher
Plot: After returning home on Valentine’s Day, Nick (Affleck) finds his wife Amy (Pike) missing; there is evidence of a struggle. Following a police investigation and flashbacks through Amy’s diary, Nick becomes the main suspect in his wife’s disappearance.
Review: David Fincher’s Gone Girl is the adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s 2012 thrilling best-selling novel of the same name. Gone Girl could have easily found its way into the basement of poorly adapted mainstream movies. But, with the vision of David Fincher as director, and a brilliantly adapted screenplay by Flynn herself, Gone Girl exists as a film that will surely be one of the years most talked about releases, even if the final act is somewhat unsatisfying.
The film is expertly written by Flynn and wonderfully paced. The first act is nicely balanced with just enough character development not to slow the plot down. The character driven aspect of the first act allows us to delve deeper into the characters and relationships, leaving us with just enough knowledge to start making our own judgments on what could have happened to Amy. Giving us the power to start trying to make sense of the events on our own is how Flynn and Fincher brilliantly set us up for failure.
We start to feel that we are getting to know Nick and Amy, but our perceptions of them are always being manipulated, constantly forcing us to second guess ourselves. In the second act, Flynn really ups the ante taking the story to a whole new level, thus forming an utterly compelling viewing experience. Flynn manages to keep faithful to her own novel; this is particularly impressive since the book appears to be practically impossible to translate into film. This is due to the complexity of the he-said/she-said narrative structure, as the story swaps between two different points-of-view during the same story: one told through Nick’s character in the present, and the other through Amy’s diary entries.
Amy’s diary compliments the plot, portraying them as the perfect couple early in their relationship to describing the growing disdain felt in their marriage. The genius of Fincher is pronounced in these sequences, leaving you feeling uneasy in every scene, constantly questioning fact and fiction. The moody atmosphere that is maintained throughout the film achieves this; Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score help push this along. The score, with its use of repetitive and electronic sounds help to show a different light on the mindset of the characters which Fincher uses to build up paranoia within the characters, which is then reflected by the viewer.
Performances from the cast were always going to be vital for Gone Girl to work. While this is always the case in films, the complexity of the characters in Gone Girl (mainly the two leading roles) would take a couple of stellar performances to make the plot shine. Small details (i.e. gesticulations, facial expressions, tone of voice) are crucial in this film; this is how Fincher plays with his audience, forcing them in one direction only to be redirected later.
Affleck, who has been brilliant in recent years (Argo, The Town), is in top form, displaying a brilliant performance. His use of small gestures to convey Nick’s cocky personality is expertly judged, as well as conveying the feeling that he is deeply confused. Although, his stroke of brilliance is how he brings out Nick’s calculating side as the film goes on. The main supporting roles are beautifully played out here. Tyler Perry is particularly brilliant as Nick’s lawyer, Tanner Bolt, as he adds just enough comedic touch without undermining the ‘thriller’ aspect of the film.
Despite great performances across the board, it is Rosamund Pike who completely steals the show as Amy. Pike’s portrayal of Amy is unsettling throughout. Every facial movement seems to be judged perfectly to affect the audience in one way or another. Her voiceover flashbacks are riddled with emotion that makes us question everything that has happened so far. After 10 years of being entertaining in small un-spectacular roles, her performance as Amy Elliot Dunne is truly a star turn.
Fincher and Flynn have a lot to say about society and the media in Gone Girl. How the media can fabricate a story from little to no evidence is strongly depicted during the course of the film, as well as our willingness as consumers to swallow any narrative spun by the media. Gone Girl also has an interesting take on relationships and marriage, constantly asking the questions “What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?” Gone Girl shows us the deep and dark side of love, romance and marriage, the fact that people are unpredictable no matter how well you think you know them is a central theme here. The film manages to show how relationships and marriages are more or less a leap of faith into another person. We then explore what happens when that leap of faith goes horribly wrong. This is where Fincher is allowed to develop one of the more important twists in a film full of them; the fact that together, Nick and Amy have managed to make each other hideously horrible people.
Jeff Cronenweth, Fincher’s regular DP helps to make the film look irresistible with beautiful and startling imagery. The score has a feel of David Lynch’s work adding a nightmarish quality, especially to the flashback sequences. The cinematography as well as the score adds to the suspense in every scene that is already there through Fincher’s brilliant direction, there is something almost Hitchcockian at work here. Fincher seems to be trying to emulate what made Alfred Hitchcock ‘the master of suspense’; one of those aspects that Fincher uses in Gone Girl as well as in Se7en and Fight Club is to mislead his audience. Where Fincher’s films are known for their twists in the third act, none of his previous films have ever thrown so many twists at an audience as he does in Gone Girl.
The only problem Gone Girl has is that of the final act. Whilst it’s a new take on what we would expect to see in the outcome of a thriller, I can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed (as I did when I read the novel). Setting this apart, what Fincher has managed to achieve here is a brilliantly dark and suspenseful thriller that will have you guessing at every turn.