Gone Girl won the box office this past weekend with its dark and twisted look at a modern marriage and a murder mystery unlike anything you’ve seen on the silver screen before. David Fincher’s latest is a dream blend of suspense, drama, acting, and cynical humor that points a finger squarely at the expectations of our society and makes you wonder what kind of monsters we’re building just below the surface.
“What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What have we done to each other? What will we do?” Based on the novel by Gillian Flynn, Nick Dunne reports his wife missing on their fifth anniversary. As the police and media become increasingly involved, Nick’s lies and odd behavior lead everyone to begin wondering whether or not he murdered his wife. If I say any more than that, I’ll be giving away some of Gone Girl’s twists, and this movie is so worth seeing that I don’t want to do that to anyone. It absolutely blew away my expectations, and there is no way I could have predicted what would happen. Gone Girl keeps you enraptured throughout its two and a half hour run time, and each twist is darker than the last. It leaves you thinking about the expectations we all place on one another and the ways society as a whole shapes stories to what it wants them to be.
I haven’t read the book, but from what I’ve heard, Gone Girl is a fairly faithful adaptation. That’s apparently a good thing as I found the story to be just the right amount of twisted. Every time I started to drift or find it a little too out there, it deftly pulled me back into the mystery, and it did a great job of keeping me guessing from the opening scene straight through to the finish. I found myself constantly wanting to know what happens next, and the movie encourages you to form theories right before it presents information that forces you to revise those theories again and again. Structurally, it’s unlike any other mystery movie I’ve ever seen, and I love the new ground it forges in the genre. Combined with the tone and pace, I came away feeling that maybe this story was a little too realistic for comfort, even though I pray that it’s not.
The other thing this story does a great job of is providing excellent social criticism without making that the focus of the piece. Whether you agree with its messages or not, Gone Girl has a lot to say about marriage, the media, perception of women, societal expectations, and our legal system. It’s a dark and cynical view, but it leaves you thinking long after the credits roll, and I love movies that do that for me.
Technique & Direction
David Fincher has a history of creating excellent, thoughtful, and disturbing movies. Fight Club, Seven, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are all past works of his that definitely helped prepare him for Gone Girl. Everything is filmed with a sure hand and with the overall vision in mind, and each set piece, camera angle, and cut helps to lead the audience exactly where Fincher wants to take it. The pacing is spot on, giving moments of levity where it’s needed while keeping the suspense high. There are shifts in this film that surprise you and leave you reeling, and those are handled perfectly as well. Everything feels intelligently done. Nothing is unnecessary, and each little detail adds to the dark, and cynical tone.
Fincher isn’t afraid to take us into the dark little corners of the world, and it’s the small details and his unflinching dedication to the story he’s telling that make Gone Girl so impactful.
Ben Affleck has been on quite a roll lately, and Gone Girl is no exception. His performance is subtle but detailed, powerful but believable, and it generates just the right amount of sympathy. A key part of the story is the audience’s uncertainty about his guilt, and he plays that knife edge masterfully. It may not have the wild emotional range that the academy tends to favor, but for the character he is portraying, Affleck is spot on. Complementing him, Carrie Coon delivers the emotional range Affleck’s character simply can’t express, and Rosamund Pyke’s performance is suitably haunting. Throw in a genuinely creepy performance from Neil Patrick Harris and you’ve got a movie with great performances across the board.
Whether it was Fincher’s directing, Flynn’s script, or the actors themselves, the performances invite you to wonder about each character and how their stories will play out. When the movie twists things up, you realize things about its characters that you simply didn’t notice before, but those things were there, and you’ll appreciate the mastery with which everything was handled as it all comes together.
The sound in Gone Girl may be the key to creating its impressively dark and cynical tone. Never intrusive, the music sneaks up on you and changes your perception of something in subtle ways. At other times, it makes you grit your teeth in suspense. While it’s not a soundtrack you would ever listen to on its own, it adds more to the film than I believe most people will ever realize.
What All of This Means to You
Gone Girl is the best mystery/thriller to come along in a while and hopefully it will shift some paradigms of the genre. Smart, dark, twisted, and fascinating, it makes for a memorable night at the movies, just don’t expect to walk away with happy feelings. In fact, in all likelihood, Gone Girl will haunt you for a day or two after you see it. Go check it out before someone gives the twists away. If you love a good mystery, you won’t want to miss this.
The Bad: Cynical viewpoint may turn some people off