A Pulpy Thriller/Mystery, ‘Gone Girl’ is Captivating Cinema

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If you’re intending to see Gone Girl, you might not want to read further. Seriously, you should go in knowing as little as possible. It’s worth it. As I haven’t read Gillian Flynn’s novel, I cannot comment on the film’s adherence to the source material. Not that it matters anyway because Gone Girl is a damn good movie. A smartly crafted adult thriller with a surprisingly comic streak, Gone Girl is a film that wouldn’t feel out of place in the filmography of Alfred Hitchcock or Brian De Palma, but retains all of David Fincher’s styles and dodges his worst indulgences.

For those of you brave enough to venture on, Gone Girl opens on the 5th wedding anniversary of Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike). Once a writer living in New York, Nick was laid off and returned to his home town in Missouri. He’s taken on a job as a creative writing professor at a local college and opened a bar with his sister, Margo (Carrie Coon). Nick returns home that afternoon to find his wife missing under mysterious circumstances. As happens in these cases, Nick is an early suspect and must answer the inquiries of a determined local detective, Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens). Having been the inspiration for a number of children’s books her mother wrote, Amy’s minor fame leads to the case becoming a national circus. To aid his defense against a growing media frenzy, Nick retains the services of Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry), a cocky, high-priced lawyer.

From its opening frames to when the credits roll, Gone Girl is anything but boring. You’re quickly wrapped up in the mystery and tension, which is constantly broken with a well-placed laugh. It’s as fine an acted film as in recent memory, nobody, not even Tyler Perry, gives an underwhelming performance. As good as Rosamund Pike is (she’s a revelation), it’s Ben Affleck’s show. Presenting a convincing array of emotions, Affleck gives what is likely the finest performance of his career. This performance should shut up the Batfleck haters.

While Gone Girl is certainly a mystery/thriller, it also works incredibly well as a harsh satire of the American media. It presents such a dim view of media frenzies that its media content is in the same vein as Network or Ace in the Hole, right down to the Nancy Grace inspired character who changes her tune on a dime in order to fan the flames of outrage.

Full of twists and turns, shocks and surprises, Gone Girl may be my new favorite David Fincher film. His work has usually left me cold – The Social Network was good, not great, and the nihilism of Fight Club loses its charms the further I get from adolescence – but here his cynical tone is earned. It’s an enthralling work, a piece of pulpy trash constructed by a craftsman working at his best.

 

 

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