Review by-Jarrett Leahy
On the day of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne comes home to find his house in disarray and his wife missing. At first glance, Nick and Amy have an ideal marriage, but looks can be deceiving, and after inconsistencies begin to surface in Nick’s story, he finds himself under the growing scrutiny of a media circus out for blood. As days turn into weeks, even Nick’s closest friends and family begin to question whether he may be involved in his wife’s unexplained vanishing.
Over the last twenty years, director David Fincher has established himself as one of the most gifted American filmmakers in the business today. His illustrious resume includes Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. His latest effort, Gone Girl, is a tension-riddled and untamed thriller that only adds to his legacy as a master storyteller. As with his previous two films, Fincher again teams up with the Academy Award winning music team of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Through Reznor and Ross’ intensely atmospheric musical score along with long-time collaborator Jeff Cronenweth’s eerie cinematography, Fincher perfectly elicits an unnerving anxiety and sustained suspense.
Originally a New York Times best-selling novel, Gone Girl was authored by Gillian Flynn who wrote her heralded book after being fired from her job at Entertainment Weekly and was brought in to pen the film’s screenplay. In this hyper-sensitive age of no spoilers, attempting to go into any great detail about the story of Gone Girl quickly opens up a dangerous Pandora’s box. In fact, I personally stopped taking notes about halfway through the film because I knew whatever I wrote would be useless in my review. Part detective story, part satirical black comedy, Gone Girl offers a biting criticism about the capricious nature of today’s social media-obsessed culture. Through mocking caricaturizations of some of today’s popular “news pundits,” we see how a media frenzy can take a provocative story and sensationalize it to extreme levels.
One actor who has first-hand knowledge to the wrath of a media hysteria is certainly the star of Gone Girl, Ben Affleck. In fact, has any movie star of recent memory had a more tumultuous career? After watching his professional reputation take an absolute nosedive following the Jennifer Lopez debacle, Affleck’s recent resurgence as an actor over these last few years is due in large part to his exceptional work as a filmmaker. Now a two-time Academy Award winner (Best Original Screenplay-Good Will Hunting, Best Picture-Argo), Affleck’s imprint on the film industry over the last two decades cannot be overstated. Destined to be one of 2014’s cinema highlights, Gone Girl only adds to Affeck’s dynamic resume. Reminiscent of Cary Grant in Hitchcock’s Suspicion, Affleck’s cunning, close-to-the-vest portrayal truly keeps us guessing throughout as we aren’t quite sure of Nick Dunne’s innocence or guilt. Being an actor whose career timeline mirrors that of the internet age, Affleck’s intimate knowledge of the effects of public opinion can certainly be seen in his portrayal of Dunne, as he adeptly illustrates the overwhelming pressure and frustrations that come from having every word and move scrutinized on national TV. While there will always be some that will never give Affleck the credit he deserves for his acting skills, it is his understated performance in Gone Girl that allows others, like that of Rosamund Pike, to truly shine.
And boy does she. Originally from London, England, it is reported that Pike beat out the likes of Emily Blunt, Natalie Portman, Charlize Theron, and Olivia Wilde to get this prized role. After seeing the unabashed commitment this respective character required, it makes sense that Fincher would want a relatively unknown to play Nick’s wife, Amy. Mesmerizing and secretive, as others have stated, this is a “star is born” kind of performance from Pike. As Oscar season begins to unfold these next few months, I’d be truly shocked if her name isn’t at the top of many experts’ lists for possible nomination.
Offering a profusion of superb supporting performances from the likes of Neil Patrick Harris, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Sela Ward, and Missi Pyle, I must take a moment to recognize Tyler Perry, whose flawless portrayal of sleazy defense lawyer Tanner Bolt shows that he just might be able to act after all. With its uncompromising discourse and contemporary pop culture references, David Fincher has unequivocally created a great movie of the moment. I’ll be curious, however, to see how his film ages, as great movies of the moment tend to go down one of two paths, either they define a moment in time and become beloved classics, or they are trapped by the moment and lose their universal appeal. Part police procedural, part mystery thriller, part social commentary about our media-obsessed culture, Gone Girl is a pulp extravaganza that never ceases to astound with its myriad of perverse twists and turns. While Affleck’s fearless performance recalls the Hitchcockian Cary Grant on display in Suspicion, it is Rosamund Pike who has thrown down the gauntlet for any actress who hopes to win a Best Actress Oscar in 2014, as her hypnotizing performance is truly one for the annals.-JL