Something does not feel good right from the beginning of “Gone Girl”, a gripping top-notch thriller which gradually and chillingly reveals its nasty and insidious cards behind its back step by step with icy, merciless precision. Considering its dark, disturbing materials including deceit, betrayal, obsession, manipulation, and (possibly) murder, this can be a very unpleasant experience, but the movie is fiendishly spellbinding from its uneasy opening scene to its gut-chilling finale which will make you look back at its very beginning, and it is also viciously amusing in its wry social commentary on the rampage of sensationalism on the media.
In the early morning of July 5th, everything seems normal to Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck). We see him going out of a suburban house where he lives with his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike), and then we see him having some talk with his twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon) at a local bar which they run together. It is the 5th anniversary of Nick and Amy’s wedding, and Amy seems to be preparing a surprise gift for her husband as before, but it looks like Nick is not particularly excited about what kind of surprise Amy has been planning for him.
Well, he gets a surprise when he returns to his home. Amy is vanished with no apparent reason, and there are a number of suspicious signs suggesting that something bad happened to her during his absence. Police investigation is quickly started, and Amy’s concerned parents immediately fly from New York to participate in the search, but Nick looks rather strained even though he seems to be willing to step into the media spotlight along with his parents-in-law for finding his missing wife. He surely looks distraught because of what happened, but does he really love his wife as he says in front of others?
As the reasonable doubts on Nick’s sincerity are slowly accumulated through the ongoing investigation led by Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and the media frenzy begins to swirl around Nick as a result, the movie occasionally goes back to Nick and Amy’s past through Amy’s diary. When they met each other for the first time, something did click between them and they got married not long after that, but their happiness was soon disrupted when they lost their jobs due to an economic recession. They later moved to Nick’s hometown in Missouri because of his ailing mother, and then it is slowly revealed to us that their domestic life was not as ideal as it looked on the surface.
Now I must be more careful at this point because I may reveal or suggest spoilers unintentionally despite my efforts, so I recommend you to stop reading my review and watch this terrific thriller to be admired and appreciated for its first-rate handling of its deviously twisty plot and increasingly foreboding atmosphere. Yes, it is surely full of surprises and secrets to be dropped upon us and I correctly predicted some of them, but the movie never loses its tight grip on the audiences throughout its long running time which is nearly 150 minutes, and it constantly makes us agitated about what will happen next.
And it also becomes morbidly funny as observing Nick’s dramatic plight on the media. He is initially presented as an unfortunate husband desperate to get his wife back and naturally receives sympathy from others, but then, once the level of suspicion passes threshold level at a certain point, almost everyone looks at him with suspicion even though there is no direct evidence to link him with his wife’s missing. More frustrated and more desperate than ever, Nick comes to realize that how he looks in front of cameras does matter, and he rises to the occasion during one crucial scene where he must be absolutely discreet about what to tell – and what not to tell.
Gillian Flynn’s screenplay, which is based on her bestseller novel, is a tricky one due to its multiple storylines and unreliable viewpoints, but the director David Fincher and his usual technical collaborators skillfully handle Flynn’s screenplay, and we rarely get confused or distracted even when we do not wholly understand what is exactly going on. While the slick, clinical cinematography by Jeff Cronenweth injects the ominous undertone into the screen, the editing by Kirk Baxter, who won two consecutive Oscars for Fincher’s previous works “The Social Network” (2010) and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2011), plays us like piano through its precise cuts and steady pace, and the murky, ambient noises created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross further amplify the sense of churning uncertainty beneath the screen.
The actors in the movie are convincing in their pitch-perfect performances. While Ben Affleck gives an understated but effective performance not so far from Harrison Ford in “Presumed Innocent” (1990), his co-star Rosamund Pike elevates what could have been a thankless role into something both alluring and interesting enough to hover around the film even when she is not on the screen. Carrie Coon is solid as Nick’s sister who decides to stand by her brother despite her own doubts, Kim Dickens brings a tough, no-nonsense attitude to her detective character, and Missi Pyle has a delicious fun with her loathsome character which is clearly inspired by Nancy Grace. Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry are also well-cast in their against-the-type roles; Harris is unexpectedly creepy as one of Amy’s former boyfriends, and Perry is surprisingly engaging as Tanner Bolt, a Johnnie Cochran-like celebrity lawyer hired to guide Nick along the risky path of establishing positive public images on the media.
Through his memorable films such as “Se7en” (1995) and “Zodiac” (2007), David Fincher has shown his affinity to dark, uncomfortable subjects, and he did another masterful job here in “Gone Girl” as exploring his usual grim territory. I was excited by its skills and performances, and I was also entertained by its unexpected plot turns even though I realized a number of holes in the plot after watching it. I must admit that the movie can be a feel-bad film for certain audiences for good reasons, but this is a thriller film which really knows how to grab our attention through pure thrill and suspense, and the result is one of the most entertaining movies of this year.