There’s a strong argument to be made for the idea that David Fincher’s latest venture, Gone Girl, is an attempt to make the most unreviewable film that isn’t abstract and coherent only in subtext. The first 45 minutes or so is the only window of story that can truly be openly written about and many, in fact, most, of the film’s highlights come after this window. Normally, Fincher waits until the final act to make his artful reveal and tie together all the thick strands of narrative he is so expert at weaving – and when there’s no curtain to be pulled, it’s made obvious with a distinct lack of waiting tension in the story. Here, he’s constructed a film that dances a line down the middle, going against his own standard of formula and produced something that is equal parts chunky to discuss and merely bite-size to review. Basically; if you haven’t seen this yet, I recommend it without hesitation. If you want actual reasoning as to why I recommend it, while tip-toeing around the plot, well, read on!
In many ways, Gone Girl opens up and sets itself up to be a very standard thriller. Man goes to work, man’s obviously in a slightly troubled state, man comes home, man’s wife is missing. But this isn’t a standard thriller, because David Fincher is the director, and David Fincher isn’t a standard director. All of the hallmarks of a great mystery are still intact; shady characters, steady reveals and a balanced ambiguity to the characters to keep the audience guessing. Where Fincher breaks out of the box is in his casting and pacing choices. Multiple strands are introduced in a fine-tuned rhythm that keeps new faces and voices coming forward, keeping the action at a pace – no mean feat when you consider this movie clocks in at a hefty 149 minutes. Most notably odd of his cast is Neil Patrick Harris, of How I Met Your Mother fame, who plays what could easily be seen as the anti-thesis to that show’s Barney, and Tyler Perry, whose Tanner Bolt is as short-lived as he is memorable. As good as the supporting players are, though, no-one quite comes close to our leading duo.
Ben Affleck delivers an indelible performance as Nick Dunne, the anxious husband waiting, hoping for his wife’s safe return. He is every bit the post Benassance (not the only A-lister who re-invented himself these last five years) leading actor we’ve warmed to, and here he dominates the screen with his stoic charm and incredible ability to be both light-hearted and dramatic in perpetuity. His co-star Rosamund Pike, who plays the gone wife Amy, proves not only a perfect match to Ben’s coolness, but a show-stealer in her own right. Slowly showing herself through diary entries that run in duality with the main plot-line, Rosamund’s Amy maintains a deep anchor to the conundrum of the story, and her depiction is the exact kind of commanding presence that works so well against Ben to give the scenes featuring the two the perfect kind of pop and nuance Fincher is known for achieving out of his actors.
What’s most intriguing, and uplifting, is that Gone Girl‘s writer Gillian Flynn is the screenwriter. Throughout the film’s 2 and a half hour journey, there is a warmth and clarity in the vision that isn’t just David’s exquisite eye for color and texture, but also a love of the story being told that is often absent of adaptative screenplays. A plot such as this one needs precision given to every facet, every subplot, every scene and every inch of every performance needs to be given the same amount of time as every other performance to make sure the complete picture is the complete picture. It’s obvious that Fincher and Flynn worked closely to achieve an overlap in their vision large enough that no excess was made, and nothing was spared in making sure audiences felt the magnitude of the story and left with a feeling consistent with the film’s characters. I can’t say they’ve completely succeeded in this regard, but what they have done is create a triumph in long-haul filmic storytelling that proves why we get excited when a new David Fincher film is on the horizon, and how beautiful it is that both he and David Cronenberg can share box office space together.
An intense and masterful thriller. 9/10