Gone Girl (David Fincher, 2014)

Based on the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl deals with some pretty hefty topics: dishonesty, the media, the recession. It’s a powerhouse of a film and one that will surely be busy come the awards season next year.

The film opens with a title sequence of quickly cut still-camera shots of various (at the time) inconsequential locations, soundtracked by an uneasy score by Fincher favourites Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The manner in which this is portrayed, as if someone is recounting evidence from memory, is designed to throw the viewer. The cast and main crew are also listed, but they aren’t on screen for long before fading away. It put me on edge and was a very original and effective way to set the tone before any of the plot unfolded. This discomforting tone was continued throughout, usually exacerbated by the jarring score.

The plot centres around Affleck, very effective in the role of Nick Dunne, a man accused of murdering his wife Amy (played by Rosamund Pike). He vehemently denies the accusations, but slowly realises that proving his innocence is not going to be a straightforward task. The journey is one that had me gripped from start to finish, and on several occasions my wife and I looked at each other in shock at the new twists we were being thrown – the sign of a wonderful thriller.

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Affleck’s career about-turn is quite astonishing. After starting off promisingly in the late 1990s, by 2005 his reputation within the industry had withered and it was even worse amongst the general public, his name being dragged through the tabloids time-after-time and dwarfing any positive publicity that might have been doing the rounds for his cinematic outputs (though when you release Daredevil and Gigli in consecutive years those kinds of reviews are harder to find). When he finally came back with critically-acclaimed films like Hollywoodland and Gone Baby Gone, the cinema-goers didn’t jump on the bandwagon immediately, probably because by this point he was seen as tabloid fodder rather than a respectable artist. It is perhaps this experience with the wider media that gave Affleck a reality on which to base such a memorable performance, with Dunne struggling against the media to maintain his reputation amid accusations that seem to take on a life of their own, certainly beyond the police investigation (and probably influencing their opinions too). It’s a perfectly pitched performance from a highly skilled actor.

The film is not without its limitations. The ending seemed a little bit confused, as though everyone involved couldn’t decide where or how to end it and tagging on a couple of extra scenes that maybe could have been cut. There is a lack of resolution that leaves us wanting a little bit more, which isn’t always a bad thing but in this case frustrating. It was perhaps intentional, though I can’t immediately offer a reason why it was intentional. It’s hard to discuss without ruining the ending, so I’ll leave it there.

Rosamund Pike is an absolute revelation as Amazing Amy. I’d be surprised if she’s overlooked in Oscar season for a performance as good as this. Equally, Neil Patrick Harris plays a convincing and effective role as Desi Collings, the disturbed and disturbing ex with twisted motives to get involved with the situation.

This is the first feature film adaptation of Flynn’s work – the second will be released next month in the form of the Charlize Theron-starring Dark Places – and you can clearly see the influence of her background working in the media. The subtext of the plot is really a lambasting of the modern media and their influence on people’s lives, sacrificing one person’s privacy for the sake of a good story for the wider population to enjoy.

Ben Affleck is going from strength to strength and Gillian Flynn has given us a completely gripping story and one that offers plenty of promise for her future writing output. With the mighty David Fincher at the helm and adding another top quality title to his catalogue of first class films, seeing it is a no brainer.

Gone Girl is out in cinemas worldwide now.

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