David Fincher is a master at taking dark subject matters and turning them into beautiful cinema that’s easy to digest. Just glance at his previous work – The Game, Seven, Zodiac, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) – you can see Fincher has an eye for the dark and mysterious. Gone Girl, in some ways, is a like his previous work. They’re films that involve great characters, taboo subjects, and an ending you wouldn’t want spoiled.
Gone Girl centers on Nick Dunne, a recently unemployed journalist who co-owns a bar with his twin sister Margo (HBO’s The Leftover’s Carrie Coon) in small Missouri town. Nick is married to his beautiful wife Amy (Rosamund Pike), the daughter of two wealthy New Yorkers who made fictional children’s book series based on her life called “Amazing Amy”. Amy and Nick are a picturesque couple, the type you’d see on the front of a Hallmark greeting card.
On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick comes home to find Amy is missing. As the search for his wife progresses, the evidence starts to point to Nick as the main suspect in his wife’s disappearance. Nick fights to maintain his innocence as more and more clues pile up against him.
Most directors would insert blatant foreshadowing scenes that hold audience’s hand all the way to the finish line. What makes Fincher a master of his craft is his ability to unpack clues to Amy’s disappearance with a slow burn. His storytelling style is a slow burn that turns into a simmer, only to reach a boiling point and keep boiling for the entire third act. Pacing and patient storytelling are essential to any good thriller. Gone Girl shows there’s nobody better at utilizing those tools than Fincher.
One of the other brilliant things Fincher does is use of Amy’s diary as the vehicle for flashbacks to show how Nick and Amy arrived, where we met them, the morning of their anniversary. Not to mention the diary scenes are narrated wonderfully, by Rosamund Pike, and neatly sprinkled throughout the story like breadcrumbs leading you to down a path.
For the past 13 months, Ben Affleck has been the center of attention since he signed on to wear the cape and cowl for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Some people hated Affleck for the role, some people loved him, but what’s been missing in that conversation is how good of an actor Affleck is. It’s odd how quickly we forget he’s a pretty damn good actor. As Nick Dunnes, Affleck is a baby face, loveable husband, grieving the loss of his wife. He’s likable, yet there’s something about him that makes you cynical about his motives. Affleck is able to capture the grief and helplessness of a husband grieving his missing wife, and a man who knows more than he’s letting on. The best part is Affleck is able to convey that with one little smile. Or is it a smirk? Or is it a grin?
Affleck really flexes his acting muscles during his scenes with Kim Dickens who plays Detective Rhonda Boney. Dickens suspects Dunnes is the prime suspect and doesn’t try to hide it. It’s hard to tell if they like each other, trust each other, or if they’re even on the same side. Either way, their back-and-forth banters when they cross paths draw you into the investigation, and also leave you with more questions than answers.
As good as Affleck is, the star of Gone Girl is the “girl”, Rosamund Pike. She gives a breathtaking performance and is believable at every turn. It’s impossible to talk about her scenes without spoiling the film. I’ll say……Gone Girl is cruising along and then Pike pushes the warp speed button that takes the movie to another level. And just when you think she’s done, she pushes the button again. I’ll be shocked not to see her name mentioned during the Academy Award season.
Pike may have raised everybody’s acting game during the shoot because Tyler Perry gives a great performance as well. That’s right, Tyler Perry. It’s hard to believe he’s the same guy from Alex Cross. Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Fugit, and Carrie Coon also shine in their supporting roles.
Gone Girl is the perfect mixture of a good story, superb acting, and a director who has the ability to take horrific subject matter and carve out movie you will want to watch over and over again.