Director: David Fincher
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Carrie Coon
Running Time: 2hr 29min
Plot: Not the sequel to Gone Baby Gone. On the morning of their fifth anniversary, Nick Dunne’s (Affleck) wife Amy (Pike) ‘disappears’, leaving behind plenty of traces with which the police call the apparently dutiful husband into question. Once the media circus opens there’s no stopping it.
From the foreboding establishing shots of the run-down North Carthage community and the casual introduction of Ben Affleck’s louche middle-aged husband Nick Dunne, Gone Girl seems to be a stylish, modern whodunnit? directed in the classic mode. Anyone who has seen Zodiac, Fight Club or Se7en will be aware that David Fincher’s films are much more complex than that. Sure enough, what begins as an engaging, humanistic approach to a suspected murder case slowly, hideously unfurls to reveal itself as an extremely venomous and shocking thriller which only someone of Fincher’s calibre could possibly pull off.
Nick and Amy Dunne (played by Ben Affleck – great – and Rosamund Pike – excellent -respectively) are a formerly fashionable couple that have been married for exactly five years, the last two of which have been spent in the homely confines of suburban Missouri. Their passions are waning; their love life is perfunctory; and their plans for the future are effectively rotting in the charnel-house of financial ruin. Relationship troubles fall by the wayside when Amy goes uncharacteristically AWOL, leaving her husband the bearer of titanic credit card debt and the sole suspect in the case of her disappearance. As the gorilla-esque Affleck -now beefed up beyond belief for Batman – hulks around between the cop shop, his model home and police press conferences, it’s hard not to take a dislike to him. He goes around like a walking, talking smoking gun, and he only seems to get worse the more you get to know him. There’s one thing though: we are always with him, so at the very least we can say we know what he’s up to.
Someone we don’t spend much time with initially is the girl who is gone. For a long while we don’t know what dear wife Amy does (or is it did? hmmmm), who she is or how she behaves; we only know what people know of her, which is suspiciously little. Then begin her diary flashbacks, written – and read aloud – by Rosamund Pike in a way which endears you to her but which is laced with a near undetectable melancholy, as if she isn’t quite telling us everything. Is there another man or woman involved? Is she lying to herself? Is this all some poetic revery, her only private escape from the waking nightmare that is her abusive marriage?
It’s common knowledge that there’s no such thing as the perfect crime but in Gone Girl’s duodenum narrative – told from the alternating perspectives of the suspected-murderer husband and the quixotic, retrospective journal jottings of the currently absent wife – the self-adapting novelist Gillian Flynn and partner in crime David Fincher have produced a near impeccable piece of espionage cinema. The haunting, suggestive score, which comes care of Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, deserves equal placement with the writing and the cinematography. It is absolutely vital to the films ever-rising tension.
Gone Girl will spark many a discussion about the impact of social media and surveillance on everyday family life, and it has an intriguing take on the way in which it can distort reality and warp our priorities to an externalised agenda. A constant, somewhat extremist theme running through David Fincher’s body of work (most prominent in Fight Club and The Social Network) is the deterioration of masculinity in the modern day, a product of the largely justified assault by an increasingly feminist society. Virility is no longer to be applauded; it is to be spat upon by journalists, news anchors, morning chat show hosts and female homicide detectives. Meanwhile, men must sit by and watch the façade of patriarchy be torn asunder by a cynical new generation who know full well that all males are either violent, insecure, impotent or otherwise undeserving of their place in the world.
According to Amy Dunne, Margot Dunne (Affleck’s on-screen twin sister, played by Carrie Coon) and a host of formidable female commentators, the male gender’s intentions are purely destructive and more than a little limited. To wit: They are all ‘total creeps’ who ‘want to fuck’ all things into oblivion or, failing that, put them on a leash from which they will never become unfettered. Now while Fincher’s views aren’t as strong as this – his analyses of gender tropes are part critique, part critiquing of critique – if the director’s last three films (Gone Girl, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Social Network) are anything to go by, his official mantra would run something along the lines of, ‘Only unintelligent people trust other people. We all hate one another deep down, some just don’t do it as well.’ Gone Girl is an overwhelmingly bitter take on human relations and the lies we tell about ourselves to others, but it’s a damn entertaining ride for it. If you found this review to be a bit light on plot clues, then that’s because most of the fun of Gone Girl is that it forces you to keep on guessing – the less you know going in, the better.