Published on October 3rd, 2014 | by Ryan Guerra0
Let me start by saying that the novel Gone Girl is a fantastic piece of literature. Author Gillian Flynn writes a wickedly deceptive story through the use of characterization and voice that is not only a rousing read, but also a gripping one that allows the reader to understand just exactly who the players are in this thrilling story.
With this in mind, I was concerned that there was no way this film could capture the dark side of the characters and the story being told. I am glad to say that I was wrong. While the typical statement of “the book is better” does apply here, director David Fincher crafts a film that audiences will be able to understand and fill in the blanks of the devious motivations of the characters based on what is seen on screen. This is a refreshing theater experience as I feel that most novel adaptations often lead to lazy filmmaking that assumes the audience is familiar with the source material. Perhaps Fincher is helped by the fact that Gillian Flynn herself wrote the screen adaptation of her novel, keeping the most important elements in play.
Ben Affleck plays Nick Dunne, an introspective “nice” guy who finds himself the primary suspect in the missing persons/murder investigation of his wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike. The two shine in their performances. They each took their characters from the pages of the book, breathed life into them and embodied Nick and Amy on screen. Combine them with a strong supporting cast of Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry, who gave performances that were neither lost nor forgettable. This is important as each are needed to provide contrast to the main characters and propel the story forward.
Though this film is not perfect, if there is any one gripe I have about this movie, it’s that a simple line of missed dialogue may cause the theater patron to miss something important to the story, such as the significance of the woodshed. However this is a small gripe as I feel that the pacing of the film and the constant advancement of the story will keep most patrons’ attention and keep them interested in the destiny of the characters.
If you are a reader, I would recommend reading the book first to get into the minds of the characters and truly feel the thrill of this story. However, if you haven’t the time or just don’t like to read, you won’t be disappointed with this strong film adaptation.
4.5 stars out of 5
Second Review by Ian M. Woodington
Full disclosure: I am a big David Fincher fan, so I’ll get the bias out of the way early. On the shortlist of directors whose work I avidly follow and eagerly anticipate, he’s one of the greatest American filmmakers working today and has yet to make a film I haven’t liked. Yes, even Alien3 (specifically the assembly cut released in 2003) and Panic Room, the two I would consider the weakest entries on his filmography, have admirable qualities and are miles ahead of most others in their respective genres.
The last time I reviewed a Fincher film was in the summer of 2007, when Zodiac was released to home video. At the time I called it a “masterwork”. Having revisited all of his features within the last few weeks, that assessment still stands, and it should stand as the example by which all other thrillers and mysteries are measured. The perfect blend of suspense, paranoia and obsession, especially given the massive amount of information and time it has to cover. With the release of Gone Girl, Zodiac’s well-earned place atop the “Best of Fincher” list isn’t threatened, but The Game, formerly holding strong in 2nd place, has been booted to 3rd. As expertly crafted as The Game is, Gone Girl proves just how far Fincher has come as a master of creating not only suspense but, more relevantly to both of those films, misdirection.
I won’t detail the plot here, as so many others will, but I will say that the couple of trailers used to promote Gone Girl are among the best I’ve ever seen, as the majority of its almost 2 and a half hour runtime came as the first genuine surprise I’ve had in front of a screen since Clint Eastwood’s Changeling. A strange comparison maybe, but I go there because both of those films benefited enormously from ad campaigns that served the interest of keeping secrets and supporting that word I’m beginning to favor, misdirection. All too often we are shown either all of the good jokes in a trailer or scenes that come directly from a film’s final act, scenes that have no business being in a trailer at all. Audiences are in for a real treat with what this film has been set up to be, and the discovery of what it actually is. Composer Trent Reznor was quoted as saying, “It’s a much darker film than I was expecting…it’s a nasty film.” The Nine Inch Nails frontman is putting it lightly.
As for the film itself, its greatest achievements are the performances. Particularly the two career-best performances from Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. Affleck goes above and beyond anything he’s done previously and there is no mistaking that his skill as an actor has caught up with his talents behind the camera. He plays Nick Dunne, a man who, through his own lack of sensitivity, is shoved most violently into a satire on the cruel, unflinching world of media frenzy. It’s a part that required bringing the kind of gut-wrenching honesty that Affleck has so rarely brought to any other performance up to this point. Following his work on-screen in The Town and Argo, he has finally secured his place as a reputable leading man.
When it comes to Rosamund Pike however, discussing the intricacies of her part is a little more problematic as I don’t wish to provide any spoilers. It will suffice to say that taking on a role with this level of intensity is a major leap of faith and only for the bravest of actresses, and she pulls it off beautifully. As the coming months bring us through awards season, I can’t imagine this awe-inspiring, powerhouse of a performance being bettered.
Behind the camera, Fincher has once again surrounded himself with some of most talented people in their fields. Ren Kylce’s expert sound design, Jeff Cronenweth’s striking cinematography and another magically haunting score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. After so many collaborations, this team is running as a well-oiled machine; and yet with all this incomparable craftsmanship, the story of two people and a marriage gone so drastically wrong is never kept from being front and center, even to point of some of Fincher’s signature shots being put aside to allow this uncomfortably intimate and harrowing tale to be told simply, and brutally.
There’s still a lot of exciting films to come before the end of the year. Foxcatcher, Whiplash, Birdman and Inherent Vice just to name a few, and they’re all going to have to strive for more than just greatness to convince me of anything other than, after twice coming so close to Oscar glory, now is Fincher’s time.