Gone Girl had a lot to live up to in the David Fincher oeuvre. I may be alone in saying that nothing in his filmography of the past few years has totally astounded me; The Social Network and Zodiac – well acted and beautifully filmed though they were – just didn’t have enough plot to hold me for the entire runtime, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo had more than a few other problems. That said, there’s little doubt that Fincher is still to be considered among the few American masters of filmmaking. Not only does Gone Girl provide more proof of that, but it’s also a film with a much stronger plot than the aforementioned dramas.
Ben Affleck stars as Nick Dunne, husband of Rosamund Pike’s Amy Dunne, who is forced to deal with the events following her sudden disappearance on their fifth anniversary. These events include police interrogations, candlelight vigils and family consolations – but the most jarring presence is the frenzy of media coverage that descends upon Nick’s life. As the first half of Gone Girl progresses, Nick’s behavior seems more and more suspicious, and even though we’ve been following his story since the very moment of his discovery of Amy’s disappearance, Nick still seems more and more guilty.
I’ll leave out the biggest spoilers, only because Gone Girl thrives on suspension of the most key facts in the lives of the characters. Suffice it to say that Fincher releases these key facts with masterful restraint – you don’t know where Gone Girl is going until he wants you to know. There’s the almost-expected, almost-obligatory twist that makes everyone go “Ah! Knew it!” even if they didn’t. There are also several other twists, ones that aren’t so much “Ah, wow!” as “Oh, shit!”, ones that absolutely revel in turning the tables on the expected course of events. Gillian Flynn, author of the novel and the screenplay, seems as perfect a writer for Fincher as Aaron Sorkin was for Social Network; Gone Girl has a colossal amount of dialogue, and all of it is crisp and exciting.
On the subject of dialogue, there have been more than a few reviews that have labeled Gone Girl as a comedy. Yes, the dialogue is often darkly hilarious (especially a quip about “twincest” and frequent rebuttals from Affleck’s Nick during scenes at the police station), but there’s no way in hell Gone Girl is a comedy. As with most other Fincher movies, Gone Girl is about so many different things – the media machine and court of public opinion, what it means to be married, etc. – that the felt need to label it as a “comedy” (or as anything else) may stem from the overwhelming task of juggling these themes when leaving the theater.
And the other characteristics of a David Fincher film are all here as well. There’s the strong, moody score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, which unsettles more and more as the film continues. There is the veritable catalogue of brilliant individual shots – a quick cut out when Nick smashes a glass on his kitchen floor, the slow movement following the couple up the winding staircase of their mansion, countless other shots that are inexplicably fantastic. Most of all, there are the strong performances from the entire cast. Fincher always pulls great stuff from his leading men, but that statement doesn’t do Affleck’s work here justice. This is a Ben Affleck role unlike any you have ever seen, absolutely brimming with subtlety that begs to be interpreted. Affleck usually plays more gung-ho overeager types, and Nick Dunne is a welcome shift that fits perfectly into the driver’s seat of Gone Girl. Rosamund Pike deserves a heap of praise as well, and you should expect to see her in more important roles like this one in the near future.
Again, though it displays many of the same sentiments as Days of Fincher Past, Gone Girl has a lot that’s new and exciting. The plot, twisty turny and yet meticulously structured, keeps the octane up throughout despite the longish runtime. The characters are also handled with such care that they become real people, and in the face of a few “unrealistic” events (a particularly bloody one leaps to mind that has David Fincher written all over it) real people are pretty damn important. The antagonist, when he/she/it is revealed, is frustratingly diabolical. The minor characters like Amy’s parents are just cast perfectly as well. Gone Girl is a film that will benefit from multiple viewings, not only so we can pick apart the veering plotline but so the beautiful performances and filmmaking can be enjoyed that much longer.