Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Gone Girl (2014)

Gone Girl (2014)
Directed by David Fincher; Starring Ben Afflek, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry

Rating: 4/5

I saw Gone Girl when I was home for a week last Halloween, a time during which I was watching a combination of old James Bond films and schlocky slashers like Scream (1996) and Freddy vs. Jason (2003) all films which are more cheesy than scary. During my one trip to the cinema that week, Gone Girl was the film which kept me on the edge of my seat. It was a real thriller with horrifying scenes making it almost a horror film itself.

I’m not going to spoil details of a plot which works best as a mystery, but the premise is that Midwestern everyman Nick Dunne (Ben Afflek) returns home one day (his fifth wedding anniversary no less) to find his glamorous wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing. The ensuing media circus then throws Nick into suspicion.

The film’s strength is its manipulation of the viewer. We follow and side with Nick initially; Ben Afflek plays him as fairly neutral, a blank slate. Maybe he’s too passive in the face of his wife’s disappearance. Is he guilty or does he simply not know how to react? He seems likeable enough, but there’s something just behind it.

During the first act the couple’s relationship is told through flashbacks, incorporating segments of Amy’s diary, and we gradually begin to side with her. These dual narrative strands are apparently from the original wildly popular novel by Gillian Flynn, who wrote the screenplay. We must be in safe hands.

David Fincher, whose last film was the English-language remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, retains something of the Nordic noir with Gone Girl. The film is full of darkness, sex and violence. Camera angles are sweeping and the scenery both bleak and beautiful. At the heart of the film is an exploration of humanity which is divisive and ambiguous.

Though a long film, it is never boring. There was a point around halfway through when some kind of resolution seems to have been reached, but the film keeps going and the pace and intensity increases. Rosamund Pike’s role increases as the story progresses and without giving too much away, her performance is powerful.

Role and image are major themes. On some level, everyone is playing a part, deliberately projecting or hiding behind a facade. Amy has been fictionalised by her writer parents in the overblown, saccharine Amazing Amy books which she has never been able to live up to. She has a place in the public eye and this is why the press descends so rapidly on the case.

As the audience struggles to understand his psyche, Nick is struggling to appease the exploitative media. He hires Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry), a lawyer specialising in image and defending suspected husbands. Perry’s role is dramatic but played with a much needed balancing touch of humour. Of note too is Neil Patrick Harris’s rare straight role as Amy’s ex-boyfriend Desi.

The music, from serene yet ominous ambient soundscapes to throbbing electronica was composed by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and his producer Atticus Ross who have collaborated on Fincher’s last two films. In keeping with the theses of this film, they have created a score which is simultaneously soothing and unnerving.

I’ll finish by acknowledging that there are some plot holes in the decidedly complicated narrative, particularly paper trails, alibis and the possible existence of exonerating security footage. Again, I won’t go into too much detail, but at one point a detective begins to question such a hole but is quickly shot down.

Presumably these details would come to light sometime later during the inevitable long investigation. The case ends far from closed. But the film is more than just the plot, which is nevertheless engaging. As a piece of film making, the themes, music and visuals remain powerful.

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