Amanda Seyfried deserves so much better than this.
After setting up an engaging premise with a damaged (but interesting) lead character, Gone proceeds to trip over itself again and again and again...all the way to the maddeningly awful climax. Only Seyfried emerges unscathed which says more about her than the surrounding wreckage.
Seyfried plays Jill, the one that got away from an anonymous serial killer on the loose. Much to her chagrin, when she got back to civilization after making a daring escape from a deep, dark pit in the woods, not only did the cops discount her story; they went so far as to suggest that the killer wasn't even real. This demonstrated lack of trust is going to be especially problematic because Jill's sister, Molly (Emily Wickersham) has just gone missing. Jill is convinced that the creep who once took her has now snatched Molly as well. Unfortunately the police force is still populated by the same doubting Thomases (Daniel Sunjata and Michael Paré) and a super creepy Wes Bentley. They once again call Jill's sanity into question and make vague references to Molly's past drinking habits. If Jill ever wants to see her sister again, it looks like she'll have to step up and save the day on her own.
It has been a really long time since I saw a film with so many willfully and aggressively stupid characters. I first sensed trouble when Jill reported her sister missing only to have one of the cops tell her "Adults have the right to disappear". That is one of the strangest and most illogical responses possible and yet it feels right at home with the rest of the lunacy on display. When Jill turns to Molly's boyfriend for help, rather than being concerned about his girlfriend vanishing into thin air, he starts quizzing Jill about how much Molly had to drink the previous night and openly expresses doubts about her fidelity. I understand that the film wants to position Jill as Molly's last shot at survival but the manner in which screenwriter Allison Burnett goes about closing off every other avenue for help is amateurish to say the least. For Jill to be the heroine, absolutely everyone else has to be a drooling idiot.
If you can get past the lazy plotting, you're sure to be done in by the underwritten characters. Unfortunately it has to be this way, because in Burnett and director Heitor Dhalia's book interesting characters don't make for good red herrings, many of which this film desperately relies on in order to limp towards the finish line. This is the curse of the paint-by-numbers procedural. Since Jill is playing Junior Detective, she simply follows along from clue to clue, gathering a trail of suspects (including Bentley and Joel David Moore) in her wake. The effect is one of stunning boredom. Tension hardly ever builds since urgency is absent during long stretches of the film. I hoped that at least the climax would go some small way towards providing redemption. A single clever twist would have sufficed. Instead we get some weird hybrid of The Vanishing (or Spoorloos if you hate remakes) and a cut-rate revenge fantasy featuring one of the weakest villains I've seen in quite a while.
If it sounds like I didn't like Gone, that's because I really, really didn't. As mentioned earlier, Seyfried is the only piece of this ill-conceived puzzle that even comes close to fitting. Watch her in the first 15 minutes of the film as she uses tightly coiled body language and tiny eruptions of rage to give Jill's backstory real heft. She finds the right blend of anxiety and desperation to color her character but that's not enough to navigate her out of the mess that this film becomes.