The central mystery in Gone Girl, the new film based on the best-seller written by Gillian Flynn, is one that fits right in with today’s media-saturated culture. Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) returns home one day to find his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), has disappeared from their house under mysterious circumstances.
When the police start to investigate, they discover all sorts of clues that seem to point toward Nick’s having killed his wife, even though Nick proclaims his innocence at every step. But as days go by with no sign of Amy, Nick starts to be convicted in the court of public opinion, especially after he continues to show little to no outward signs of remorse about her disappearance.
In addition to being a crackerjack of a thriller, the film also acts as an indictment of mass media and perhaps even the institution of marriage.
The gloominess and sinister feeling hanging over the film has long been a signature of director David Fincher. And as with films like Fight Club and The Social Network, Fincher, working off a script by Flynn, draws you in even as the main characters do their best to repel you.
It’s clear to see why Affleck was a good choice to play Nick, as he has a face and demeanor that seem to ooze both affability and animosity at the same time. We the audience desperately want to believe him because he is the protagonist, but as time goes on, it gets more and more difficult to do so, a duality that Affleck plays to near perfection.
If you’ve read the book, you know that there is no talking about the second half of the film as it contains one whopper of a twist that essentially resets the entire narrative. What can be said is that the first half, which contains occasional flashbacks to Nick and Amy’s happier days, narrated by Amy reading her diary entries, is the ideal setup for what transpires later. Whether you know the twist, can guess it or have no idea, it’s a highly interesting and effective premise for a mystery such as this.
In addition to being a crackerjack of a thriller, the film also acts as an indictment of mass media and perhaps even the institution of marriage. A Nancy Grace-like figure pops up at various points, jumping on even the smallest of morsels and blowing them up until Nick can’t help but appear guilty as hell. And even though the film is obviously only about one couple’s relationship, the level of toxicity detailed between Nick and Amy can’t be easily shaken.
In addition to Affleck’s great performance, Pike is also memorable as Amy. Her breathy, haughty delivery of her lines makes Amy a bit of standoffish enigma, even as we should be worrying about her character’s fate.
Also giving the film some punch are Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin sister, Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit as the investigating police officers, Neil Patrick Harris as one of Amy’s old boyfriends, and Tyler Perry as Nick’s slick attorney.
Fans of the book should be thanking their lucky stars that Fincher decided to take on Gone Girl, as only he could do justice to the wicked creepiness that pervades Flynn’s story. For both first-timers and Flynn devotees, it’s a hell of a ride.