Gone Girl Review

Posted: October 5, 2014 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

gone girlWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

There are certain filmmakers who reach a point in their career where every film they make is an event to be excited for. One of the best examples of this is the great David Fincher. With his sophomore effort Se7en, Fincher established himself as a bold talent, and subsequent efforts like Fight Club, Zodiac, and The Social Network solidified him as one of the best directors in the business. While Fincher is versatile as a director, he seems most at home when working with thrillers, particularly ones with mystery and a narcissistic streak. This is why a thriller about a man who is suspected of murdering his beautiful wife seemed right up his alley. This brings us to Gone Girl.

Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) is a former writer and teacher living in Missouri with his beautiful wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike). On the day of their fifth anniversary, Nick comes home to find Amy missing and signs of a struggle. The police are called, and Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and Officer Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) are brought in to investigate. As new evidence comes to light, Nick becomes the prime suspect and finds the only person he can turn to is his sister Margo (Carrie Coon).

The trailers of Gone Girl suggest a certain type of film; a man facing accusations of murdering his wife trying to prove his innocence while the audience is unsure of what truly did happen. This aspect of the film is executed very well. David Fincher creates a very dreadful atmosphere and the tension is palpable. The narrative is very absorbing and very quickly one finds themselves sympathizing with Nick for what he is going through. At the same time, there is a sense of uneasiness since the exact nature of Amy’s disappearance is still unknown. While the main plot is progressing, flashbacks show how Nick and Amy met and how their relationship progressed through the years. These segments are equally interesting, providing both insight and contrast to the main storyline. Most films would have likely just played this angle through before coming to a conclusion which would either reveal Amy’s fate or end on a more ambiguous note. This is not the case with Gone Girl. Instead, the film takes a pretty sharp twist which changes the entire narrative. It doesn’t just do this once either. There are several paradigm shifts which change the dynamics of the film greatly. Watching the film, I thought I had a pretty good idea where things were going, but after things started to twist and turn, quickly realized I was in uncharted waters. Simply put, I had no idea where the film was going and I never would have guessed it to end the way it does. This is indeed one of the film’s greatest strengths. It starts out gripping, but the plot gradually reveals itself to be truly fascinating and I applaud Gillian Flynn, who wrote both the screenplay and the novel it is based on. Kudos as well to David Fincher, who is able to blend the stories very well while maintaining a consistent tone and momentum.

Due to the film’s shifting narrative, I’m somewhat limited in what I can actually say about the story. One element I do feel comfortable discussing is the prevalent theme of media perception. Through much of the film, Nick is judged considerably by the news media. His every movement, action, and statement is picked apart by everyone. His own family advise him extensively on how he should and shouldn’t act. Why is he smiling here? Is he overdressed? Underdressed? Why is he greeting everyone like this is some sort of gathering or event? Every little thing he does is scrutinized, to the point where assumptions about his character are made based on very little. This is most emphasized by a Nancy Grace-esque news program following the disappearance. While the primary focus of the satire is media perception, these also feed into the film’s larger musings on the nature of the truth, marriage, and in appearances vs. reality. This starts to veer into spoiler territory so I won’t go any further, suffice it to say this element is equally interesting.

Fincher has always had a gift for casting the right people in the right roles. Ben Affleck is used very well in the role of Nick Dunne. He makes for a sympathetic lead, but there is some enigma to him, and his smugness and good looks make it easy to see why people dislike him. Given that Affleck himself has had to deal with the media go back and forth with how they portray him, I’m sure he connected with the material. I do want to point out though the character’s success is not just a work of smart stunt casting. Affleck really does immerse himself in the role and this is probably the best performance he’s ever given. Good as he is though, Rosamund Pike is even better as Nick’s wife Amy. There are many, many shades to this woman who can be very complicated and Pike really nails it. I’ve seen Pike in a handful of movies, but I never would have imagined she had this kind of a performance in her. I wouldn’t be surprised if she scores an Oscar nomination for her work here. The rest of the supporting cast is very strong as well. Actors like Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris seem a bit odd on paper, but both prove very effective in their roles. Other memorable turns come from Carrie Coon as Nick’s sister and Kim Dickens is the determined detective searching for the truth. On the whole, it’s a very strong cast which work off each other very well.

In addition to his casts, Fincher is known for his technical polish and perfectionism. As one can imagine, these traits are true of Gone Girl as well. Jeff Cronenweth’s cinematography is extremely professional. The film has a very drab colour pallet which is in keeping with Fincher’s visual aesthetic as of late. The visuals are also interesting in that they are at points very realistic, while others more dream-like. Throughout it all though is a certain sterile cleanliness, which really heightens the chilling precision of the film. Fincher also stages the action of his films as well. This goes for the bigger set-piece moments, but is also true of the smaller details. Bottomline, Fincher knows how to keep his films visually interesting. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross provide the score and while it lacks the surprise of their work on The Social Network, it is none the less an excellent score which can be beautiful in points, but extraordinarily tense and haunting in others. The music is very unique but never to the point of distraction.

Much of the reviews for Gone Girl have a sense of, “Well, Fincher’s done it again.” It’s easy to see why so many have reached that conclusion. Not only is this up to Fincher’s high standards, this is a film that feels right in Fincher’s wheelhouse, in its story, tone, execution, and themes. However that should not dismiss the accomplishment that is Gone Girl. This is an expertly crafted film with an unpredictable narrative and themes which run deep. It’s the kind of work that insidiously sticks with you and demands to be seen again. Movies have been in something of a dry spell since August, but Gone Girl is a tremendous shot of life into the medium. It’s, by far, the best thing playing in theaters now and to not see it would be to do yourself a great disservice. What more can you say; Fincher’s done it again.

A+

Comments
  1. Chris says:

    WTF, I thought we were going Saturday!

  2. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Dan. I had a good time with this, even though I know it isn’t Fincher’s best. Still though, it’s a piece of his that reminds me he can be a very fun director to watch just play.

  3. reel411 says:

    He continues to top himself. Such a great film

  4. Great review, Dan. I had it as an A from myself, but had to lower it to an A- due to mental scarring from seeing Ben Affleck’s wizard.

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