movie film review | chris tookey

Gone Girl

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  Gone Girl Review
Tookey's Rating
9 /10
Average Rating
7.54 /10
Ben Affleck , Rosamund Pike , Neil Patrick Harris
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Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: Gillian Flynn, based on the book by Gillian Flynn

Released: 2014
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 149

On his fifth wedding anniversary, feckless, adulterous Nick (Ben Affleck) goes home to discover a smashed glass table but no trace of his bright, beautiful wife Amy (Rosamund Pike). Thereís blood in the kitchen and a blunt instrument in the fireplace. Nick is suspected of murder, and his relaxed, easy-going manner rubs a lot of people up the wrong way, including the cops and some very voyeuristic representatives of the media. Nick becomes the most hated man in America.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Gone Girl was easily the most entertaining thriller of 2014. The style of direction that David Fincher had used in films such as Fight Club and Zodiac - Hitchcocky, dark, atmospheric and more than slightly crazed - was ideally suited to the screenplay, an unusual mixture of marital black comedy, thriller and (ultimately) Grand Guignol. The mood that builds has much in common with three classic films, Hitchcockís Vertigo, Wilderís Double Indemnity and Clouzotís Diabolique - thatís the original French film, not the trashier Hollywood remake. I canít reveal where they influence the film without giving away too much of the plot; letís just say that theyíre all classy thrillers dealing with mental turmoil.

Gillian Flynnís book used as narration the alternating and very conflicting voices of husband and wife, with the viewpoint changing from chapter to chapter. Thereís little attempt by Flynn to mirror this approach in her screenplay. As a result, it feels less like a psycho-drama and more like a black comedy, viewing with amused detachment the breakdown of an apparently ideal marriage. Nick isnít the most sympathetic of heroes, so we can enjoy his discomfiture, especially at the beginning. Gradually, we experience with him the way that events beyond oneís control can turn into a waking nightmare.

You could say the film resembles the worst nightmare of a marriage counsellor, and it certainly suggests that remaining single might be a sensible response to the danger of being lumbered with a straying partner. But the film doesnít demand to be taken totally seriously - some of the behaviour on display is scary bordering on demented, and itís so extreme that most of us will feel that it couldnít possibly happen to us.

The resulting film is a lot of fun, though it canít wholly disguise the melodramatic nature of the plotting. That we mostly suspend our disbelief is down to the two leading actors, especially Rosamund Pike. Sheís been an adornment to many films, most tellingly An Education, and itís great to see her grasping the chance to be a leading actress. Iím not sure that Amyís psychological problems are very convincingly explored by Ms Flynn, but Pike makes Amy never less than watchable. Pike even finds a kind of grandeur within the character; she dares to say and act out a lot of things that less brave women merely feel. Sheís not a conventional feminist heroine, but sheís undoubtedly a strong woman.

Affleck didnít attract across-the-board praise; but I thought he was ideally cast. He is an actor of limited range and often seems dead behind his eyes, but thatís true of Nick as well. Fincher knows how to exploit Affleckís square, all-American jaw and easy smile masking... well, what exactly?

For me, the book is marginally superior to the film - mostly because it builds up Amyís richly repellent, ambitious parents, and their vileness helps to explain how Amy might have ended up the way she does. However, even with the parental element greatly diminished, the film still runs two and a half hours, which is probably long enough for most audiences. I would have happily watched for three, but then I liked the extended versions of The Lord of the Rings.

A minority of critics found the movie glib and superficial. I didnít. It captures rather well a thoroughly modern phenomenon - the way that round-the-clock media, including social media, peddle uninformed guesswork and falsehoods that become accepted as truth, and give licence to bigots of all kinds to vent their prejudices with a violence hitherto unseen. Sensation and instant judgments are everything. This is a major and highly topical subtext at a time when many fine journalists and commentators are being fired, and one of the themes is certainly the endangered status, and possibly even the death, of responsible journalism. Itís this cultural background, perceptively reproduced by Ms Flynn, that helps make us sympathise with victim Nick, even though heís a twerp with a violent temper. And both book and film accurately show how the pressures of an economic recession can widen the cracks within a marriage. There are surprisingly few mainstream movies tackling these extremely timely subjects.

Iíd like to add a final paragraph of praise for the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who also worked with Fincher on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. They help to make the movie gripping and surprising, even when you can guess which way the action is heading.

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