Gone but hard to forget
The film adaptation of author Gillian Flynn’s bestseller “Gone Girl” is a lurid, provocative thriller that presents mind games as the deadly ritual of a broken relationship – as taut a crime drama as you are likely to see this year despite overstaying its welcome by about 20 minutes.
Ben Affleck (in an understated, comfortable-in-his-own-skin performance) is Nick Dunne, married to Amy (Rosamund Pike, unnaturally but creepy brilliant). Both Nick and Amy are struggling with post-recession joblessness and the five year itch of romantic dispassion. At one point Amy had a healthy trust fund, courtesy of her parents’ successful “Amazing Amy” children’s book series, but that money is nearly gone. Nick spends most of his days at a bar he co-owns with twin sister Margo (terrific Tony award nominee Carrie Coon). What Amy does with her time is pretty much an unknown.
Bouncing between the initial stages of their relationship and present day, “Gone Girl” sets up the murder mystery nicely. When Nick comes home on the day of their 5th anniversary to find Amy missing, the police quickly turn him into the prime suspect in what appears to be a crime scene at the couple’s beautiful suburban home western Missouri.
Leading the investigation are Detectives Boney (Kim Dickens) and Gilpin (Patrick Fugit), who begin to have doubts about Nick’s innocence as more details of the couple’s life are revealed. Nick is almost immediately convicted in the court of public opinion, and his posture and peccadillos don’t help him make a case for his innocence.
The surprise of “Gone Girl” is not simply what happened to Amy, but how she disappeared and exactly who is involved. The film ratchets up the tension but never tips its hand about the twists and turns that lie ahead. No stranger to slippery suspense with both noir-ish and comedic elements, director David Fincher (“The Social Network,” “Seven,” “The Game”) guides the story with precision and combines elements of “Presumed Innocent,” “Fargo,” and even “The War of the Roses” into a final product that is both perverse and spellbinding. One scene in particular is not for the faint of heart but doesn’t feel exploitative. It’s simply shockingly believable.
While it could be argued that Affleck has never been better, and Tyler Perry’s performance as a star attorney is surprisingly good, and that Pike is likely to get a well-deserved Oscar nomination, this film falls apart without Fincher’s sense of style and mastery of the source material.
“Gone Girl” is a dark, disturbing walk down the aisle of matrimonial madness, and an unforgettable one at that.
Rated “R” for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language).