Honestly, even at nearly two-and-a-half hours long, there’s nary a wasted second or throwaway scene or drawn-out sequence that could have been snipped in director David Fincher’s dark and enthralling big-screen adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestseller. Every moment matters, and all of them are fantastically complex, compelling and completely twisted.
Full disclosure: I’m one of the few people on the planet who hasn’t read the novel, so I knew very little going in. And, to be honest, I actually think that made my experience of the film that much better – I didn’t know the plot twists in advance, I had no idea who might be guilty or why, and I rode this roller coaster of a story with entirely unspoiled eyes. I don’t know that I would have enjoyed it quite as much if I’d known all the details in advance, since part of the fun is being repeatedly jaw-on-the-floor surprised.
To avoid giving away too much of what unfolds, the basic premise is this: average guy Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) becomes the prime suspect when his beautiful wife of five years, Amy (Rosamund Pike), mysteriously disappears. As a pair of police detectives (Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit) investigate, the truth ekes out one tiny fragment at a time, with each new revelation leading to another shocking turn – turning the plot into the world’s most intricate set of nesting dolls. Populating the narrative sidelines is an array of supporters and detractors – including Nick’s devoted twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon), his chilly in-laws (David Clennon, Lisa Banes), his high-profile hot-shot attorney (Tyler Perry), Amy’s former high-school boyfriend (Neil Patrick Harris), and a Nancy Grace-esque TV host (Missi Pyle) whose finger is squarely, and very publicly, pointed at Nick.
Twisty, moody, fascinating and thoroughly gripping, Gone Girl the movie is the kind of grown-up thriller that makes the ticket price more than worth it. It moves slowly and methodically, allowing the audience to savor all the nuances and, for people like me, to try to figure out where the action will next lead. Bonus for those who have read the book: there’s stuff in the film that isn’t in the novel. I know this because my movie-going pal, who’d read the novel, let out a couple of big gasps of shock as we watched. So, surprises await even the most savvy, devoted Gone Girl fan.
Much has been made of Affleck’s performance, and it’s all well-deserved: this really is easily one of his best. But it’s Rosamund Pike who gets the meatiest material into which to sink her teeth – Amy is a rich, multifaceted character with a very broad range, and the role will undoubtedly be a star-making one for the previously-known-only-to-fans-of-British-film actress. An Oscar nod may be in her future, and supporting nominations would be more than deserved for Coon and Dickens, as well. Both are superb. Heck, every single performance in this movie is exceptional – even Casey Wilson’s comic-relief-y manic neighbor is a delight. There isn’t a weak one in the bunch, and the film’s talented ensemble only serves to elevate the material further.
The list of superlatives could go on and on. But the point is this: Gone Girl is one of the best films of 2014, and – with a warning that it does contain some graphic violence that may upset those with a more delicate constitution – is a must-see this fall.