The murder mystery scene hasn't been all that impressive over the course of the past year. However, director David Fincher is trying to change that with his newest thriller Gone Girl, which is an adaptation of a novel by the same name. Writer Gillian Flynn happens to have written both the novel, as well as the screenplay. Her book's direction split readers down the middle, but it got people talking. Some readers were absolutely captured by its insanity, while others simply couldn't follow it down the path that it was set upon. While I haven't read the book myself, this is a powerful effect when translated to the silver screen, as it generates discussion. Isn't that one of the main reasons why we go to the cinema? And nobody would be better to incite such feelings than the highly respected David Fincher.
Married couple Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) seem to have the perfect life, until the day of their fifth anniversary. Amy has suddenly disappeared, leaving many to question if Nick was somehow involved with it. This investigation ultimately transforms into a media circus, as details of their rocky marriage begin to rise to the surface. Even his closest friends and family begin to question whether or not he's innocent in this unusual disappearance.
What might initially sound like the run-of-the-mill mystery actually turns out to be much more expansive as more layers begin to unfold. The film begins present day, although the film occasionally moves into the past, as Amy writes in her diary about their romance. The audience gets the opportunity to see the highlights of their relationship, as they appear to be the picture perfect couple who support each other through even the roughest of times. Just as we're starting to be pulled in by this love story, we're quickly pulled back into the present reality of a missing woman and a potentially dangerous man. Flynn's screenplay masterfully drives Nick on the line of sympathetic and fear inducing, as our opinions of him continue to change throughout the picture. This is a perfect example of exceptional characterization and disposition, as we become utterly engaged in every move that he makes. This makes for an extreme amount of tension throughout the running time, as we question whether or not he was involved in the disappearance of his wife.
Gone Girl isn't all serious, as David Fincher has once again added that satiric flare that we have come to admire from him. Whether it's in the form of dialogue or Nick's mistakes, such as smiling in front of his wife's missing poster, there are quite a few genuine laughs to be found here. Yet, it all manages to flows together so incredibly well, that the humor doesn't pull us out of the more serious tone that the remainder of the picture possesses. This speaks to Flynn and Fincher's wonderful sense of flow, which is absolutely seamless. The film aims to make audiences comfortable, as it patiently waits until our guard is down to pounce. It proves to be insanely effective, as we're left with a piece of cinema that manages to take us by surprise over and over again. Gone Girl is a thrill ride that is aware of what we're expecting, and knows how to flip these expectations on their head. Yet, it also provides the satirical comedy that Fincher has become so good at delivering.
Once we reach the third act, Gone Girl explores a completely different path with a new set of motivations. This is the moment where opinions are sure to split, as you'll either be taken by the picture's new direction, or it will pull you out of the film. While the pacing slightly slows, we're introduced to an intriguing perspective that one wouldn't expect from a mystery/thriller such as this. The ending will only cause even more controversy, as it once again manages to thwart our expectations and explore its own path. While I can see how some could have trouble with the ending, I found it to be an excellent way to close out the picture. There is a lot of character development that has occurred throughout the picture's duration, and the conclusion asks a very honest and well-composed question to the audience in relation to what has just been witnessed. One could easily discuss this ending for quite some time with a fellow viewer, as people are sure to have dissenting opinions.
Over the past couple years, Ben Affleck has grown on me. I haven't necessarily considered myself much of a fan, as I never felt as if I could entirely trust the characters that he plays. This is what makes him so perfect in the role of Nick Dunne. We aren't sure whether he's a reliable protagonist or not, and Affleck does a wonderful job portraying that. He manages to make him quite sympathetic, all while making us question his motives and underlying desires. Rosamund Pike delivers a stunning performance in the role of Amy Dunne. As we continue to get to know Amy through flashbacks, she proves that she can convince anybody of this character. Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris also turn in effective performances as Tanner Bolt and Desi Collings, respectively. Carrie Coon is excellent as Margo Dunne, who adds an extra dimension to the film that wouldn't be there otherwise.
Filmmaker David Fincher has always been known for his unique visual style that sticks with the audience long after the credits are done rolling. He has done it once again with the visual presentation seen in Gone Girl. The color palette is absolutely stunning, as it pushes the separation between the flashbacks of a young love and the harsh reality of a missing wife with ease. The cinematography is some of the most impressive work I've seen on the silver screen this year. The film has a distinct look that stays true to the gritty nature of the story, all while expressing a sense of beauty. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross deliver an outstanding score that truly drives the film home. It's sure to permeate the soul of every member in the audience, as the intensity continues to escalate. This is truly a beautifully composed piece of visual cinema.
Much like any good novel, a strong film should leave you unable to stop thinking about it, even after its conclusion. This absolutely holds true about David Fincher's Gone Girl. Gillian Flynn's screenplay might have a couple hiccups towards the third act, but this is still a powerful piece of writing that twists and turns all of our expectations on how a mysterious thriller should play out. Flynn and Fincher manipulate the very same expectations and judgments, and provide us with a piece of filmmaking that truly makes a statement. The ending will surely be controversial, but it concludes everything before it in a wonderful and unexpected way. Along with its brilliant performances, this is truly one of the must see films of the year. Gone Girl is dark, intelligent, and impactful. Highly recommended!