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Review: Gone Girl

– by David Morgan-Brown

gone girl posterBased on the novel of the same name (with the screenplay written by its author Gillian Flynn), Gone Girl is quite a literary film. It’s dialogue-heavy and packed with intriguing story developments and continually shifting characterisation, as well as being masterfully directed where the audience and characters are given the right amount of information, but only at the right times. The awards season is just starting and it looks like we already have a strong contender with this fantastically plotted, superbly made mystery film that is as enthralling as it is entertaining.

What I can say about the plot may sound simple. Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) comes home on the morning of his fifth anniversary with his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) to find that she has disappeared. The police get involved and, because of Amy’s status as a relatively popular author, soon do the media, with Nick himself under constant scrutiny from both. This all happens within the first half hour of the film and the rest of the running-time (which I consider to be in spoiler territory) takes this heightened realism into absurd extremes, with some jaw-dropping scenes being undoubtedly unpredictable. Gone Girl isn’t exactly relaxing viewing. It demands attention with its assaultive ferocity (emphasised by the excellent music score by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross).

Director David Fincher excels in the crime genre. His previous effort, 2011’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was of upmost professional and sleek design, but its substance suffered from source material that failed to marry theme and story together. Gone Girl has the best of both worlds; it’s a technically perfect film with an intricate and interweaving plot that harshly criticises media sensationalism and the frailty and falsity of marriage. The sterile, clinical aesthetic of the film not only matches that of the forensic investigation taking place, but also that of the carefully deliberate facade people put on to garner approval, whether from their loved one or from the media-saturated public. It’s safe to say Gone Girl is a romantic comedy, but the romance is sourly acidic and the comedy is tar black.

The performances from all are excellent. It’s unlikely Ben Affleck has been better than in this: he gets into the nuances of playing a role within a role. Rosamund Pike is a revelation, her dissatisfaction with the relationship making the audience easily sympathise with her, but she soon turns this into something far more intense. And it’s a testament to how great a director Fincher is with actors that he even manages to get quite a good performance from Tyler Perry (playing Nick’s lawyer), who’s otherwise known for directing and acting in the awful Madea comedies.

Just a day after its release, Gone Girl was already stirring not only critical acclaim, but conversations and arguments about sexual relations and their portrayal in the media. It’s not a simple and compact film that ties up everything nicely in a neat bow, it’s complex and clever and leaves its audience on the right level of suspense. The dramatic impact it has had is sure to continue throughout the rest of the year and further on as it is regarded one of the finest mystery films in recent years–so much more than just a whodunit flick.

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