“The fact that Gone Girl is tense and frequently eerie in its narrative shouldn’t be as surprising as how aesthetically sublime it manages to be for upwards of two-and-a-half hours.”
David Fincher’s Gone Girl is an expertly-paced mystery that slowly descends into a biting tale of revenge and deception that further gets us thinking about how well we really know our spouse, and questions the degree of unsettling activity that can reside with suburban domesticity. The film is based off the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn, who was fortunate enough to write the film as well, and is only enhanced and brought to life by the careful, calculated direction of Fincher, who’s last film was four years ago with the Oscar-winning Social Network. With Gone Girl, he further channels his inner-auteur, meticulously calculating the film and investing in so much style and distinction in the film’s look and structure that it is amazing it doesn’t become a distraction.
But I’m getting ahead of myself; the film concerns Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), a writer-turned-bar-owner who leaves his house early one July morning to have a drink with his sister Margo (Carrie Coon), the co-owner of his bar. He returns home to a frightening sight, as his living room table has been shattered to pieces and there is no sign of his wife, Amy, nicknamed “Amazing Amy” by her friends and family. Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens), an assertive and uncompromising woman, is dispatched on the case, and Nick finds himself being asked a whirlwind of questions he doesn’t know the answers to and a subject of media/tabloid scrutiny. The film largely focuses on the search for Amy, as Nick continues to work with the detectives to not only find his wife but prove he did not murder her, along with his ability to cope with the consuming stress and the possibility of having to hire the expert lawyer Tanner Bolt (played by Tyler Perry in a surprisingly effective performance based on nuance and composure).
Amy’s character is elaborated on largely via flashback, where she is played by Rosamund Pike and illustrates a life of fear, paranoia, and a progressing lack of fulfillment in her diaries. For starters, Affleck and Pike are terrific here, establishing credibility as a frequently off-putting couple in their own distinct ways. One is just as good as the other, with Pike sometimes even besting Affleck for the level of conviction in her performance, playing disillusioned but not out of touch to Affleck’s character’s ignorance but constant illusion of control. Nick finds himself to be too controlling, when often, lacking the most control, and Amy finds herself being ambiguous and deceptive with her actions, making this the perfect mystery in the sense that we truly have no idea what is really going on, as probable outcomes are being placed at every turn.
Flynn and Fincher structure the film in a way that mobilizes it so that audiences find themselves trying to form consensuses in their head, only to either be thrown off by another piece of evidence or stuck on a revealing factor. This makes Gone Girl an uncommonly active moviegoing experience, as it allows constant thought to flourish. Secondly, Gone Girl may also be one of the most aesthetically sublime films of the entire year, with amazing amount of attention being paid to nearly every aspect of the film’s setup. The editing, done by Fincher’s loyal editor Kirk Baxter, brilliantly keeps up with its own pace and influences that sort of activeness I just spoke about, and cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, another frequent collaborator of Fincher’s, conducts Gone Girl in a soft, low-key light, almost that of an independent film with ten-times the budget, effectively creating a scenery that can almost be reasonably described as ghostly.
Finally, Fincher’s loyal composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross influence Gone Girl‘s aesthetic flair by accompanying haunting synth music to many of the film’s scenes that makes for a surprisingly tense cinematic experience rather than a distracting stylistic feature. This only adds to the intensity of Flynn’s story and screenwriting, wrapping the film in such a way that it excites as well as mystifies, doing what some of the most fantastic mystery films do. With Fincher behind the camera, we feel as sense of biting precision in his shots, his camera angles, and his decision to shoot what he does in the way he does, providing us with the notion that he is in total control. The fact that Gone Girl is tense and frequently eerie in its narrative shouldn’t be as surprising as how aesthetically sublime it manages to be for upwards of two-and-a-half hours.
Gone Girl arrives in theaters around the same time Prisoners did last year, another lengthy, effective story about the mysterious disappearance of two young girls with one of their father’s doing everything he could to find them. Both stories are spacious and rooted in suspense and mystery, allowing their story to build and morph into something of true greatness with such lengthy runtimes that one can only hope, unlike Prisoners, Gone Girl makes larger, more noticeable waves with audiences and the Academy, as award season lingers not so far in the distance.
NOTE: It’s also worth noting that Ben Affleck plays yet another character who is in love but deeply conflicted with a girl named Amy, similar to one of his breakout starring roles in Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy. If one thing has been consistent in Affleck’s lengthy, checkered career, it’s that he still manages to continue chasing Amy almost twenty years later.