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Gone Girl – film review

October 22, 2014

GONE GIRL

A psycho-sexual thriller of which Hitchcock would be proud.

Reviewed on Friday 17th October 2014

Gone Girl - Ben Afleck as Nick

Directed by David Fincher. Screenplay by Gillian Flynn, based on her novel. Starring: Ben Afleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon and Kim Dickens. Running time: 149 mins.

Please be advised, the following review is SPOILER FREE …

The ice queen wife of a self-absorbed college professor goes missing on the day of their fifth wedding anniversary. As the husband struggles to maintain his composure amidst the ensuing media circus, he begins to realize he is the unwitting pawn in a diabolical plot to destroy his life.

This is one of those films where knowing as little as possible going in will make it all the more rewarding an experience. Thankfully (for once) the trailer gives virtually nothing away. So if you’ve already seen the trailer – be rest assurred – it barely scratches the surface as far as revealing the massive twists and turns this story takes. From all accounts a remarkably faithful adaptation of the best-selling source novel; it begins as a police procedural, becomes something else half-way through     and takes yet another turn in the final act. I won’t go into exactly what any of this involves, only to say – nothing is what it seems. In fact, if Hitchcock were alive today, Gone Girl may well have been a movie he would have made. Aside from the Vertigo-like intrigue, there is a shocking scene of intense brutality which occurs towards the end of the film which conjures up memories of an iconic sequence           in Hitchcock’s Psycho – both in terms of its visceral impact and the way it is put together – creating images which will most likely haunt the psyche for a very long time.

Much has been made of Ben Afleck’s turn as put-upon husband Nick Dunne – a solid, if understated performance. And while none of the characters are necessarily sympathetic or relatable, the entire cast is uniformly strong. Tyler Perry as hot-shot defense attorney Tanner Bolt has all the best lines. While Neil Patrick Harris is disturbingly sleazy as Amy’s former boyfriend Desi – a creepy performance not too dissimilar to his role as Carl in Starship Troopers. Interestingly, Harris is one of two actors in the cast who has appeared in films directed by Paul Verhoeven – the other being Kim Dickens, who plays Detective Rhonda Boney, who also appeared in Hollow Man. I make mention of this as Gone Girl definitely has similar tonal qualities to a Paul Verhoeven movie – in the sense that it appears to be commenting on American society from the outside – rather than from within.

Tonally it is less doom-laden than Se7en, with Fincher stating that Gone Girl is essentially a pulp Noir mystery which evolves into satire, although it is unclear which elements Fincher is referring to as being satirical – as the media circus aspects are not all that far from reality; especially when dealing with the manufacturing of public perception of ordinary people thrust reluctantly into the spotlight. Although on second thoughts, perhaps, in some respects, this media commentary could indeed be compared with the satire found in Paddy Chayefsky’s Network (although it is not nearly as exaggerated as Network appeared to be back in 1976). There has also been an assertion bandied about that the film is misogynistic. However, I would argue this label can never truly stick – as the screenplay was written by a female from her own source material. Perhaps if it were written by a man – this accusation might hold actual weight. If truth be told, the film is no more misogynistic as it is anti-male (which it is not). In fact, I will go as far as to say that Rosamund Pike’s mesmerizing portrayal of missing wife Amy Dunne will most likely go down in history as being one of the truly great female film roles ever – an unforgettable performance undoubtedly worthy of a nod come Oscar time.

As one would expect from a Fincher film, technical aspects are virtually flawless.     The cinematography by Jeff Cronenworth (whose cinematographer father Jordan had worked uncredited with Fincher on Alien 3) is naturalisitic and understated. And the signature drones and fuzzy electronics normally associated with NIN are present here with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross again providing soundtrack duties.

Despite the two-and-a-half hour running time, the film is so well paced and so compelling – length is never an issue. Fincher’s direction is far less showy than his previous early films such as Panic Room and Fight Club – allowing the story itself to take center stage. And aside from one or two minor lapses in authenticity towards the end, Gone Girl is a tight-as-a-drum psycho-sexual thriller which may resonate most deeply with viewers who are married (or have been) but not necessarily in a positive way. So be warned – this is definitely no date movie.

4 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed at the Norwood Cinemas, Adelaide, October 17th 2014.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

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