Film review: GONE GIRL, from Built For Speed

David Fincher is one of the finest filmmakers of recent times and his movies are now major events.  Not surprisingly his adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-selling 2012 novel Gone Girl has been one of the year’s mostly hotly anticipated movies.  While this film is not an immediate masterpiece like Seven, Zodiac, Fight Club and The Social Network, it is still a riveting thriller and character study.

At first resembling nothing more than a 90’s-style procedural thriller wrapped in Fincher’s formidable aesthetics, the film soon reveals tantalising layers as it examines the decaying institution of marriage and a GFC-afflicted world where the economy and communities are crumbling and where reality and identity have become very blurry.

Ben Affleck stars as Nick Dunne a failed writer trapped in a loveless marriage with once successful author Amy (Rosamund Pike).  When he returns home one morning to discover scenes of apparent struggle and his wife gone, he suddenly finds himself chief suspect in her alleged murder.  The film plays with, challenges and subverts expectations as the truth of the case is revealed and its shocking impact on all involved becomes apparent.

Fincher superbly realises this perverse tale with his typical grimy, green-tinted atmospheric visual style.  Like his stunning thriller Seven he creates a woozy, off-kilter world where morality and the normal rules of human behaviour seem to be dying.  This atmosphere is wonderfully enhanced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s powerful score which mixes moody synths and scratchy nerve-jangling experimental sounds.  Unfortunately – and this may have been a preview screening glitch – there appeared to be problems with the sound mix as the music was too loud in some scenes and the dialogue hard to hear.

Ben Affleck looking chunkier than normal is utterly compellingly as Nick mixing superficial calm with latent aggression.  He seems like an average lug but his behaviour is undeniably suspicious.  The stunning Rosamund Pike superbly captures a range of unsettling moods within Amy although at one point she becomes unusually zoned-out like a Stepford wife which drew a few giggles from the audience.  In what at first seemed to be stunt casting Tyler Perry is actually fine as the brash, over-confident celebrity lawyer Tanner Bolt who Nick is virtually compelled by public pressure to retain.  Kim Dickens, at times channelling Frances McDormand’s Marge Gunderson from Fargo is memorable if a little underused as the investigating detective Rhonda Boney.  As her partner, a grown-up Patrick Fugit isn’t given enough opportunity to stamp any authority on his character.  Similarly, Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s alternately sympathetic and creepy former boyfriend and appears all too briefly.  Oddly, Leonard Kelly-Young as Nick’s Father appears for only a few seconds before being ushered away.

While this film is essentially a serious, intense and atmospheric thriller, Fincher also infuses it with quirky comedy. His stinging parody of the media circuses that spring up around tragic events and the vile inflammatory muckraking TV shows that seek to manipulate the public conscience are superb and recall the disturbing yet comical frenzy depicted in Billy Wilder’s The Big Carnival.

Audiences now have very high expectations s of David Fincher’s films and for the most part these expectations are met here. Despite its 149 minutes Gone Girl is never dull and cleverly maintains a gut-twisting sense of anticipation throughout.  Still, with some underdeveloped characters and an ambiguous moments it’s not quite the masterful thriller it could have been.

Nick’s rating: ****.

Genre: Thriller.

Classification: MA.

Director(s): David Fincher.

Release date: 2nd October 2014

Running time: 149 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. 

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