Tuesday, 7 October 2014

[Review] Gone Girl

Disclaimer: Whilst I have gone out of my way to avoid all major spoilers in this review. There are still certain small details touched upon in this review that may be considered spoiler-ish.

So if you have yet to see the film and still want to walk in blindly then I suggest you turn away right now. Skip to the conclusion. Is Gone Girl worth seeing? Yes, yes it is. Go see it, it's one of the best films I've seen all year thus far, and it gets my full recommendation.

After his all-too disappointing remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, David Fincher returns with a vengeance with his new thriller Gone Girl.

On the day of his fifth wedding anniversary, small town bar owner Nick (Ben Affleck) returns home to find his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing. The front door forced open; the glass coffee table in the living room overturned and smashed, and a smidgen of blood is staining the ceiling walls. Upon arrival at the scene, Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) instantly suspects that all is not what it seems, and foul play may be at bay.

As the days turnover without a trace of Amy's whereabouts discovered, anecdotal shreds of damning evidence against Nick begins to appear. The once thought idyllic marriage between Nick and Amy is not all it seems as evidence of domestic disputes and financial woes surface -- leaving Nick at the heart of what now appears to be a case of murder.

In all honesty, Gone Girl is one of those films where the less said about it,  then the better the experience. It's a film filled with minute forensic detail. A film that grabs you by the throat and proceeds to take you on one hell of a ride as it twist and turns with pure ferocity. Needless to say, but Gone Girl is an utterly fantastic return to form for David Fincher.

At the wicked heart of Gone Girl is two utterly fantastic lead performances given by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike as the toxic couple. In many ways, this is the role that Ben Affleck was born to play. Nick is the very definition of hapless schmuck. A charming former writer with a smidgen of celebrity status, unfortunately, terminated from his job thanks to the effects of the global recession.

Affleck's portrayal of Nick is a man completely detached from reality. When questioned by detectives about his wife's daily habits, he has no answers to give in return. When asked about his wife's close friends or acquaintances, he can give no names. When photographed at a media press-conference about his wife's disappearance, he lets out a smug smile by accident. For someone who has lost the supposed love of his life, his external image is that of not-too-phased. Although in private moments with family members, he confides that internally he is torn to shreds and is just trying to uphold the "nice-guy" image for the public eye.

Naturally, the hounds of the mainstream media latch onto his detached exterior appearance and automatically decry him as being guilty of the crime. Further complicating matters is the eventual discovery of Amy's personal diary, presenting her perspective towards the downfall of their marriage. This nasty game of he-said-she-said further builds the already spiraling web of intrigue and mystery.

Both Nick and Amy hold a smidgen of celebrity status and as such there are elements of the film that is clearly satirising the mainstream media and its ability to puppeteer public perception with its blame-game tactics. As the true sordid details begin to unravel, Nick grows more concerned with trying to repair his tarnished status over finding his wife.

In order to play the role of good-guy for the mainstream media, Nick employs the talents of high-end lawyer Tanner Bolt -- a patron saint of wife-killers -- played rather brilliantly by Tyler Perry. Tanner Bolt understands the fine art of faking sincerity for the media and thus coaches Nick on what and what-not to say in public.

As for the eventual reveal of the true sordid details of the relationship, think The War of the Roses turned way up to 11 before taking an appropriately nasty detour by the way of Paul Verhoeven.  The third act is quite grizzly and nasty in all the right ways to say the very least.

Gone Girl is a film of layers. Just when you think you've got it pegged, Fincher immediately pulls the rug out from underneath you in the most unexpected of fashions. Brilliantly played by everyone involved. Especially Kim Dickens, who seems to be partially channelling Frances McDormand in Fargo, as the inquisitive small-town detective. And most importantly Rosamund Pike whom just about steals the show from everyone involved.

Expectedly shot with an abundance of style by Fincher regular Jeff Croenenwerth. It is a film packed with minute forensic detail. Croenenwerth treats every setup as a crime scene best left undisturbed. Every little detail has been obsessively observed, fine-tuned and photographed by Croenenwerth. Backed by an appropriately fitting cold industrial soundtrack by Trent Reznor that is arguably some of the best work from Reznor to date.

Gone Girl is exactly what I look for in cinema. A smart, emotionally rattling and all-together gut wrenching cinematic experience. With a hefty runtime of 149 minutes, it never once outwears its welcome. From minute one, it grabs you by the throat and never once loosens its grip. Part murder mystery, part character study, part satire of the mainstream media and part exploitative thriller. But most importantly it is all together brilliant. Gone Girl is nothing short of a true return to form for David Fincher.

(out of five)

-Daniel M



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