Starring: Ben Affleck (Argo), Rosamund Pike (The World’s End), Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), Tyler Perry (Alex Cross), Carrie Coon (The Leftovers), Kim Dickens (The Blind Side), Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous)
Director: David Fincher (Se7en)
Writer: Gillian Flynn
Runtime: 2 hours 29 minutes
Release Date: 2 October (UK), 3 October (US)
Whenever David Fincher makes a motion picture, the film community stops and stares. His work all looks cut from the same cloth, yet each piece feels wholly unique. His style is meticulous and finely sharpened, yet he couldn’t make it look simpler. He is one of the few filmmakers who’s been around for as long as he has without making a major blunder (yes, that includes Alien 3, which was interesting if problematic and most of its problems don’t even stem from him). Yet despite all of this, everyone is still surprised by the fact his movies are good; everyone thought making a movie about Facebook was a doomed prospect, but then The Social Network turned into a modern classic and everyone went “Oh yeah. Fincher made this. Why was I doubtful again?” With Gone Girl, he returns to seemingly well-trodden ground for him: a murder mystery thriller. But though it is unmistakably Fincher from the first frame, that sense of amazement and awe still impacts in yet another fantastic piece of cinema that I cannot wait to indulge myself in again.
Analysing the plot of Gone Girl is incredibly hard to do without spoiling everything, so much so that I’m tempted to do a spoiler review after this just so I can talk about it properly, so excuse me if this paragraph sounds vaguer than usual. The story begins like you’d expect a tale like this to unfold: the crime happens, fingers start pointing, and the case unravels from there until the shocking conclusion. But after all the set-up, well executed though still formula set-up, Gone Girl starts to twist and turn like a twisty-turny thingy; every time you think you’ve tidied it all up, another ball drops and the plot continues. The film’s two-hour plus runtime may seem daunting, but it’s paced so acutely and the story full of enough tension that it never drags for a second; every scene, every line of dialogue, every tiny detail is important, but it never becomes convoluted enough to make it hard to follow. I don’t want to say much more, but just be ready to go to some truly unexpected places.
Among one of Fincher’s many talents is to get the best performance possible out of any actor; he is the guy that made Justin Timberlake seem amazing after all. With Gone Girl, he certainly does that with both actors you expect to be great and those who are made great by his direction. Ben Affleck’s performance as Nick Dunne is one of his best, given a meaty and complex character that’s hard to like but completely sympathetic. His situation remains engaging and relatable even as the plot escalates into more outlandish directions, mainly because he is made so remarkably human. Carrie Coon shines as his twin sister Margo, lambasting him for his failures but always sticking by his side. Neil Patrick Harris is off-putting and eerie in his small but important role, putting aside his usual comedic demeanour and giving a genuine but creepy performance. Even Tyler Perry comes off as excellent as Dunne’s slick lawyer Tanner Bolt, who’s friendly and supportive without ever losing that troubling twinkle in the eye you expect from a lawyer of his type. But it is Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne, the eponymous Gone Girl herself, who steals every scene she is in. Again, saying much more than that would be giving too much away, but Pike has never been this good and I hope to see her name among the Best Actress nominees come awards time.
Fincher’s work is instantly recognisable even if you can’t discern exactly why it’s recognisable, but his usual flourishes are here. The cinematography is simple but captivating, lit subtly and tinged that recognisable hue that permeates all of his work. The editing is sharp and expertly timed, and the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is a bit more subtle than their previous collaborations with Fincher but fittingly so.
It’s probably going to take time and a few more viewings to know for sure, but Gone Girl certainly sits among David Fincher’s best work to date and as one of the best films of the year so far. It’s riveting, shocking and hits every target it aims at. I’ll be rooting for this one come Oscar time, especially for Rosamund Pike’s career-defining performance; trust me, after this, few people will remember her as “the chick from that James Bond movie with the invisible car”. Go see this film as blind as you can and just enjoy the experience.
FINAL VERDICT: 10/10!