Gone Girl is the latest project from feted director Peter Fincher who has a long and illustrious filmography that includes titles such as The Social Network (2010), Fight Club (1999), and Se7en (1995). The film is based on a book of the same name by Gillian Flynn who also adapted the story for the big screen.
The film opens with a happily married couple getting ready to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) is at a local bar when he gets a call from a local nosy neighbour to tell him that something is wrong at home. He returns home to find the door open and the coffee table turned over and smashed. A police detective turns up and notices some suspicious signs around the house. Nick comes under increasing scrutiny from the public and police, and the remainder of the film deals with the question of is he responsible for the disappearance of his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike)?
This is a very simplified version of the plot but to say any more is likely to lead to spoilers. I’m not sure how other reviewers have handled the plot synopsis but the less you know going into the theatre the better. The narrative structure of the film is that more and more of the background of the couple is revealed through flashback and the diary being kept by Amy. Eventually time catches up with itself and the final act plays out.
The first thing to say is that the film is superb. There is plenty to digest and Interstellar (2014) is still to be released but this is a contender for best film of 2014. There are multiple layers to the tale which play out naturally on screen and the audience isn’t hit over the head being told what theme is being explored at any given moment. I put this down to the quality of the screenplay and strength of direction. For all of its thriller overtones, Gone Girl is essentially a film about relationships. At its heart are the Dunnes and the examination of what a marriage is. It asks questions about what happens to the individuals within the union. How much of the identity of the individual is lost? How much of a sacrafice has to be made for the greater good and can that price be too high?
The film contrasts the secret private life of the relationship versus the public perception and the show that we may all put on from time to time. The idea of performance or the show is the second key theme to Gone Girl. It’s unclear how much of a show Nick is putting on for the public such as when he is shaking the hands of volunteers looking for Amy or when he is making public announcements. Amy herself is living with her parents acts of altering her past to write award winning books about ‘Amazing Amy’. These strings are then interwoven into the media portrayal of the case and how this influences (and vica versa) public opinion. Nick is forced to come to terms with the fact that any potential trial will be as much about public opinion as the facts.
Ben Affleck has proven himself to be a reliable leading man in recent years. I still think he has more potential as a director but in this film he keeps you guessing. That being said the majority of buzz will be around Miss Pike – there’s lots I would like to talk about now but I would break my oath as a film reviewer. Let’s just say that, erm, yeah she’s pretty damm good. The supporting performances are solid from the likes of Carrie Coon as Nick’s sister, Margo, and David Clennon and Lisa Banes as Amy’s parents. I had been interested in the appearance of Neil Patrick Harris but he was forced into delivering a melodramatic obsessed ex-boyfriend which for me has done little to set him up for future non-comedic roles.
In summary this is fantastic film making of the highest quality. It starts out in very conventional fashion but be patient as the pay off is worth it. It features strong central performances and a grown-up script that doesn’t treat the audience as stupid. Multiple thumbs up.