David Fincher’s masterpiece Gone Girl has a lot going on and more importantly, plenty to discuss afterwards. First time screenwriter Gillian Flynn adapts her best-selling novel with all of its ferocity firmly in tact. Over a extremely well paced two and a half hours, the film succeeds as a keeps-you-guessing mystery, a disturbing commentary on intimate relationships and a darkly humorous look at modern media sensationalism.
Ben Affleck stars as Nick Dunne, a New York writer who meets cute with Rosamund Pike’s Amy in an extended early flashback and they share moments that lead them to courtship and eventually marriage. Things gradually begin to sour and on the morning of their fifth-year anniversary, Amy disappears and suspicions from the police and the public surround Nick in the ensuing days. During the investigation, he is supported by his sister Margo, played by Carrie Coon, and tested by two local detectives, played by Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit.
And oh, how much more I wish I could discuss. The film’s marketing team did well to conceal the central plot points and I applaud their efforts for a level of restraint that is often uncommon among modern film promoters. Even though I would count its “She” trailer as one of the year’s best, I can’t say it was necessary to sell the movie to me personally. I’m still waiting for the day when a feature film helmed by a director of Fincher’s caliber is released without a trailer or TV spot before it. But I digress.
As per usual for Fincher, this film is tremendous from a technical level as well. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross continue their successful relationship as music collaborators to produce yet another unnerving score. Cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth returns as well with his appealing visual style that also hints at layers of rot right under the surface. The casting also has some inspired choices, including Neil Patrick Harris as one of Amy’s former lovers and Tyler Perry, who brings humor and perspective to the role of Nick’s attorney (yes, I can officially say that I’ve now laughed at a Tyler Perry movie).
Above all, Gone Girl is a first-rate psychological thriller, not just in terms of its precise plotting but its engagement with the characters’ inner thoughts. It’s a revolving door with motivations and morality constantly pushing and pulling during the story’s progression. We know these people are loathsome in various ways but we can’t look away. A gorgeously framed opening shot along with a loaded voiceover passage at once sets up both the film’s emotional brutality and enigmatic beauty. This moment, which is reprised later in the film with elegant symmetry, is a stunning point of introspection that has stayed with me in the hours and days since my first viewing.