What can be remarked about Gone Girl that hasn’t already been said? Any new David Fincher-directed movie is a highlight for many a film fan, but based on a bestselling novel which became a phenomenon of recent times (no, not that one), expectations were high. So, with all the hype, media coverage and in-depth discussion , will Gone Girl disappear into cinematic obscurity?
In short, no. Much like the novel (written by Gillian Flynn. Honestly, read it if you ever get a chance: SOMEONE you know will own it), the film incites all who see it to discuss the complex characters, the sharp observations of modern life and the initial mystery we can all deduce from the title. Paired with the visual style of David Fincher, it is a starkly uncompromising film, clinically shot and perfectly lifted from the page (thanks to a screenplay written by the one person who’d know the story best, Flynn). Visually it evokes the claustrophobia of Fincher’s Panic Room (2002) while in pacing feels more chimed with Zodiac (2007); yet another crime investigation thriller which has a radically different time-frame.
Ben Affleck plays Nick, a 30-something former magazine journalist now joint-bar-owner who returns home to find that his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) has inexplicably disappeared in suspicious circumstances. Set in small-town America, the film perfectly captures a landscape hit by an economic downturn and a community within which can both rally around in times of need or revolt when a investigative media circus comes to town. The search for Amy is interspersed with extracts from Amy’s own diaries which shed some Fincher-famous light on Nick and Amy’s relationship. Here is where Pike is able to shine, breaking free from her mainly supporting-role career and finally being the electrifying leading lady we have never seen before. A performance of the year.
As the police turn to the most likely suspect, Nick himself, the film withholds and reveals information, leaving the viewer never entirely certain of their own sleuthing instincts. Key moments lead you down the “he/she definitely did it” path only to leave another breadcrumb clue for you to pick up and reconsider gobbling up. The eventual reveal is shocking, satisfying, mind-boggling. and unnervingly thrilling. I defy you to look away.
I write this as Gone Girl goes to Number 1 in the UK Box Office Top Ten. It is a pretty staggering achievement for an 18-certificated movie, especially in a climate where film distributors are clambering over themselves to dilute films down to the 12A rating in order to make any sort of impact in ticket sales. It has been slow burn, but the word-of-mouth effect has once more taken hold, just as it did with the original source novel. Sometimes when the movie is good, the advertising takes care of itself.