Darkly comic, twisted, even creepy, Fincher’s latest grips you by the throat.
Dir. David Fincher
2014 | USA | Crime/Mystery/Thriller| 149 mins | 2.35:1 | English
R21 (passed clean) / M18 (censored) for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language.
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon
Plot: With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent.
Awards: Nom. for 1 Oscar – Best Leading Actress
Distributor: 20th Century Fox (Park Circus)
Subject Matter: Heavy
Narrative Style: Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
(Reviewed in theaters – first published on 2 Oct 2014)
A woman goes missing, believed to be murdered. Her husband, maybe framed, becomes the prime suspect. The media goes into frenzy mode. Nothing is like what it seems. And because that is so, we have another accomplished work by one of the great American directors of our time. David Fincher’s latest, Gone Girl, grips you by the throat. At the end of it, you will feel like the woodcutter in Rashomon (1950). What is the truth? Where is the truth? Will you finally lose faith in humanity?
In this darkly comic mystery-drama, adapted by Gillian Flynn based on her novel of the same name, Fincher treats it unsurprisingly like an investigative-procedural thriller in the mould of his masterwork Zodiac (2007), albeit with a bold touch of comedy. It is difficult to handle comedy in a serious, twisted, and twisting film, but Fincher successfully captures that fine tonal balance for 2.5 hours, retaining the picture’s mysterious and creepy qualities.
Much of the creepiness comes from Fincher’s mood setting and low-key lighting, paired with his favourite pals Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ atmospheric, layered compositions, and a gleefully calibrated performance by Rosamund Pike, who should be rewarded with an Oscar nomination. It is a standout performance playing the missing woman that should elevate Pike’s status as a gifted actress. Ben Affleck puts in one of his better performances, whose character – the husband – gets sucked into the whirlwind that is the media circus.
“I can practice believing my husband loves me. But I could be wrong.”
Gone Girl is as much a commentary on the power of the media (to sell half-truths and lies), as it is an indictment of unhealthy, destructive marriages. While films like Zodiac externalize threats to an unknown serial killer, Gone Girl internalizes them. The home, a safe zone; and marriage, a safe relationship, become signifiers of fear.
Fincher’s works, particularly that of films like Seven (1995), The Game (1997), Fight Club (1999), The Social Network (2010), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), and of course Zodiac, are films of deconstruction. They not only break down the malleable nature of the human psyche, but give their lead characters a sort of active agency to pursue their cause, to which they are always (and inevitably) bound to the limits of how they conceive of themselves. It is always a fight to retain or regain one’s own identity in light of bewildering or disturbing circumstances.
Tense, and with multiple narrative threads intertwining to give a rich, layered story, Gone Girl is handled superbly by Fincher. Ever the perfectionist, his trademark clinical direction gives us one of the year’s most satisfying and chilling screen adaptations. Surely an Oscar contender?