Release Date: October 3, 2014
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry
Director: David Fincher
Studio: Regency Enterprises, Pacific Standard
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Genre(s): Mystery thriller
Based On Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Gone Girl stars Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, who returns home on the morning of his fifth anniversary to find that his wife, Amy Dunne, has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Amy’s parents are the authors of the popular children’s book series Amazing Amy, which is loosely based on the real-life Amy, making the family minor celebrities; this means that not only do the police take on the case with extraordinary speed and determination, but the whole story quickly becomes national news, with an entire nation speculating on what exactly happened. As various, increasingly incriminating pieces of evidence appear, all eyes start to turn to Nick.
That’s about as much as the trailers give away, so it’s as much as I’ll say here. The film sustains on a series of escalating plot twists and reveals, each more powerful than the last, making this a movie best seen blind. If you only need someone to tell you whether or not to see Gone Girl, here you are: go see Gone Girl and see it soon, because it’s the best thing in theaters in months and because people will start indiscriminately spoiling it in no time. Suffice it to say that if you were to look at the plot points like a bullet point list, the whole thing would look like trash.
In the hands of a less experienced or more self-indulgent director, that’s exactly how it would have turned out, but instead David Fincher took up the reigns. The result is a complex, intricate, extremely engaging thriller that manages to keep escalating and reveal more layers of depth in every scene. The most continuously intense movie of the year runs for two and a half hours and has virtually no action sequences – in these superhero-dominated times, if that isn’t a testament to the sustaining power of truly spectacular filmmaking, I don’t know what is.
Again, it’s tough to discuss how the film does any of this without spoiling parts, but much of the film relates to public perception of actions versus the actions themselves. Nick is in an unusual situation, in that the entire country scrutinizes every one of his slightest gestures, including a spot-on Nancy Grace parody performed impeccably by Missi Pyle. But as the story progresses, it goes on to explore the dynamics of marriage in general and how couples behave in the public and private sphere. It also taps into our apparent knowledge of those close to us and how we have no way of knowing if we can trust it – fantastic as the film is, this might be the worst movie you could ever chose for a first date given the paranoia it will pass onto its viewers.
Somehow Fincher and Gillian Flynn (who wrote the screenplay as well as the source novel) manage to do this with all their themes, allowing them to operate on the enormous scale at which the characters encounter them as well as the small and immediate way that we know them daily. Soon you start sympathizing with obviously terrible human beings, and it’s when you evaluate what you’re thinking that the film has you.
Fincher also manages to pull incredible performances out of his actors, meaning that almost every member of this cast brings their best performance to date. This is easily Ben Affleck’s most dynamic role in his career and his most interesting character he’s ever played; Neil Patrick Harris takes a relatively small role and turns it into something truly memorable; even Tyler Perry is surprisingly entertaining, as well as rather funny (like, actually funny, not Tyler Perry funny).
But the clear standout is Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne, who puts out a performance that’s nearly guaranteed to earn her an Academy nomination and likely the win. If she seems like the weak link in an otherwise strong cast, give her time, as she develops along with the plot in incredible ways. It’s refreshing to see an actress with such an incredible understanding of such a difficult character.
This is the rare blockbuster that really demands to be discussed, explored, dug into, sapped for all its complexity and intricacy. Fincher never leaves the film without a major dilemma and he never gives an easy way out – if he managed to make one of the most compelling films of the decade about a social media website, just imagine what he does with a dense murder mystery like this one. Again, this could have all gone so, so wrong. Thank god it turned out so right.
Final Thoughts: David Fincher has consistently made visceral and richly intelligent thrillers, but this may be his best yet. Gone Girl is powerful, terrifying, gripping, and even darkly hilarious. It’ll be a challenge to keep from talking about this one until enough people have seen it to spoil it more openly, but the discussions it inspires will remain relevant long after the film leaves theaters. It’s easily one of the best movies of the year.