Gone Girl

Genre: Drama

Director: David Fincher

Writer: Gillian Flynn, based on her novel of the same name

Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, David Clennon, Lisa Banes, Missi Pyle, Emily Ratajkowski, Casey Wilson, Lola Kirke, Boyd Holbrook, Sela A. Ward

Running Length: 149 minutes

Synopsis: On the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) reports that his beautiful wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), has gone missing. Under pressure from the police and a growing media frenzy, Nicks portrait of a blissful union begins to crumble. Soon his lies, deceits and strange behavior have everyone asking the same dark question: Did Nick Dunne kill his wife?

Review: I have long been an ardent fan of David Fincher’s work, and it comes as no surprise (to me at least) that his latest, Gone Girl, is yet another excellent cinematic achievement. Adapted from Gillian Flynn’s bestselling 2012 novel of the same name, Gone Girl is flawlessly directed, capably supported by Fincher’s regular crew, and features a number of brilliant performances, none more so than Rosamund Pike’s career-defining turn as Amy Dunne. Gone Girl is an impossibly deft mix of a police procedural, a whodunit, a domestic drama, and a darkly comic exploration of the state of media culture in present times. It runs a long 149 minutes, but is deeply absorbing from the get-go, and qualifies easily as one of the must-watch films this year.

It is best to enter a viewing of Gone Girl with little to no foreknowledge of the plot, and thankfully the trailers released for the film has not managed to give anything away (kudos to 20th Century Fox for showing enough restraint and respect for the film). As is my practice, this review will not contain any obvious spoilers, but readers who are averse to spoilers of any magnitude may want to avoid proceeding any further till after watching the movie.

It’s really quite impossible to take the story of Gone Girl seriously, and it goes far, far down the rabbit hole in terms of implausibility. But therein lies the beauty of pairing the source material with Fincher – even though I knew it made no sense whatsoever, it did not detract from the viewing experience at all because the film was so well made. All the Fincher regulars are involved – the film is shot beautifully by cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, edited flawlessly by Kirk Baxter (the dual timeline narrative structure could not have been easy to edit coherently), and the pulsing, electronica-infused classical score is perfectly suited to the film’s unsettling nature.

What truly makes the movie stand out, however, is the quality of performances from all the actors involved. Every speaking role leaves a strong impression, particularly Kim Dickens whose hard-as-nails police investigator effortlessly steals the limelight every time she makes an appearance. Then there are the twin performances from Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike – Affleck has proven his solid acting skills in previous outings, but here he is an inspired choice as the cocky writer who gradually loses his dignity and pride. The constantly shifting perspective means you can never be too sure of Nick’s intents and motives, and Affleck manages to convince in an understated, restrained yet nuanced performance.

And then there’s Rosamund Pike. Pike has done solid work in supporting roles over the years, but here she is a revelation as Amy. The role requires a truly broad emotional scope, and she manages to nail all of them, from wide-eyed ingénue to demure enchantress to being cold and calculative. Charismatic yet chilling, her performance consistently demands the attention of the audience, and feels like it’s multiple roles compressed into one.  That she manages to fully embody this complex character is a triumph – this is a star-making role for Pike and one I feel that’s deserving of an Oscar nomination, if not a win. (A side anecdote – her performance in a scene was so impressive that some audience members in the normal screening I attended began to applaud spontaneously.)

That the story and its internal logic starts to unravel in Gone Girl’s final reels isn’t all too material to the enjoyment of the film – by then, Fincher and team have managed to weave such an engrossing, deliciously macabre tale that the old adage that it’s the journey, not the destination rings true. Anyone with a penchant for the twisted will definitely relish this dark, stylish and sexy movie.

Rating: * * * * (out of four stars)

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