(Gone Girl is a film so steeped in mystery and big reveals that any adequate analysis requires a nearly full disclosure of its biggest secrets.
With that in mind, I’ll be trying something a little different this time. This page will contain a spoiler-free review, followed by a link to an
analysis of the film with full disclosure of its darkest secrets. For those who wish to remain unspoiled, do not click the link on the bottom of
Nick Dunne wonders what it would be like to murder his wife. He contemplates cracking open her skull and unspooling her brain to really
know what is going on in her mind. Ben Affleck’s creepily detached voice-over introduction is only the beginning of Gone Girl’s descent
into the terrifying space between genius and madness.
Based on the novel by Gillian Flynn (who also penned the screenplay), Gone Girl is an entertaining, occasionally outstanding psychological
thriller with great performances from its entire cast.
Director David Fincher is no stranger to the genre, having helmed films such as Se7en, Zodiac and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Tonally, Gone Girl differentiates itself from his previous works with a surprising sense of humor. I hesitate to label the film as such, but
there is some very dark comedy going on here, especially in the second half when things get more than a bit ridiculous.
Affleck is good as Dunne, but it’s Rosamund Pike who steals the show as his missing wife, Amy. We get to know her through a series of
flashbacks showing key moments in their relationship. The juxtaposition of these scenes with the present day sequences after she goes
missing under mysterious circumstances is well handled by Fincher. The editing here is excellent, showing the full spectrum of their
relationship, raising serious questions about what Nick is capable of.
Pike’s performance is exceptional. And as we learn more and more about her, we begin to wonder who is telling the truth; Amy, in her diary
entries, or Nick in his conversations with the police and his sister, Margo (A wonderfully endearing performance from Carrie Coon).
Affleck is quite good in arguably his best performance to date. He plays Nick just right as a detached man who struggles to hide the fact that
his wife’s abduction and potential murder isn’t as distressing to him as it should be.
The film also cleverly integrates media and public opinion into the story. When Nick smiles, he is bashed by sensationalist journalists, and
when his affair with a much younger woman surfaces, he quickly becomes one of the most hated men in America. It’s a damningly accurate
portrayal of mob mentality, where any negative perception proves your guilt, and the media is more than happy to fan the flames for better
Seeing this macro view is nice, especially when Nick’s slick attorney (A very funny Tyler Perry) comes on board, but it is a bit of a diversion
in a film that is too long as it is.
There is a major, game-changing reveal halfway through the film that finally brings some clarity to what actually transpired. It’s brilliantly
directed by Fincher, and saying any more would cross into spoiler territory. This is one of the rare examples where the studio’s marketing
team actually respected the mystery of the film. The trailers I saw were appropriately vague.
After this reveal, the film begins an increasingly ridiculous series of events that take Gone Girl from psychological to just plain psycho.
I enjoyed it all, but when a film begins with dark realism and becomes genuinely absurd, that’s a tonal problem. More on this will be
discussed in the spoiler section.
Needless to say, what begins as an exceptional thriller becomes an utterly bizarre barrage of implausible sequences and baffling character
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score follows suit, shifting from generic piano ramblings to abrasive noise. It’s a cheap tactic to increase the
unnerving nature of the film. Fincher’s work is above this gimmicky device.
Still, Gone Girl is an engaging film, even if the (perhaps intentionally) manic plot construction holds it back from greatness. Fincher and his
cast are superb, and even when it flies off the rails, this is a magnificent spectacle. It may be a train wreck, but it’s one you can’t look away
For my additional, spoiler-filled thoughts, click here.
* * *
(out of four)
Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: Gillian Flynn
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick
Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens
Cinematography by: Jeff Cronenweth
Music by: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Released: October 3, 2014; 149 Minutes