The premise of Gone Girl makes itself very clear in its trailer, did Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) kill his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike). Actually, this isn’t the only premise, but one of many. About the first half of the film follows this storyline, and the events that unfold day by day following Amy’s disappearance. Each day we learn more about Nick and form our opinion about his guilt. This is intercut with dream-like memories of the couple’s relationship from Amy’s point of view, with her voice narrating her own diary entries. After an hour or so we find out whether or not Nick is guilty. It’s difficult to give any more plot description without giving anything away. Suffice to say, the second half of the film involves various plot twists, directions and mood/genre changes.
As usual Ben Affleck plays a very convincing Ben Affleck. That’s not a bad thing, he fits the role perfectly. It might be largely a testament to the casting, but Affleck certainly deserves praise for his subtle and varied performance. His emotive yet enigmatic performance is continually entertaining and prevents the audience from deciphering the riddle. With his late entry into the story, Neil Patrick Harris is almost unrecognisable with a similarly excellent, if homogeneous performance. These two actors in particular are implanted firmly into the star system, universally recognised as playing a distinct character type. This plays excellently to the film’s advantage. We’re left guessing whether Fincher is using them against type or not, thus adding to the cryptic powers of the film.
Again, to go into detail about performances would be too revealing, but some performances – or perhaps the direction – went disappointingly downhill towards the end of the film. One of the primary characters seems to go through an instant and unrecognisable transformation from a regular and sane individual, to being completely psychotic. I’m unsure of how intentional this rapid decent into lunacy is supposed to be, but it certainly turned me off. What was initially an intense and involving experience immediately became ridiculous and sobering.
Gone Girl is simple in everything but its plot. Fincher cleverly builds tension and immerses the audience into the film without having to sink into typical Hollywood procedure. It isn’t plagued with never-ending mood music telling you what you think, or chiaroscuro lighting to point a blatant finger at the person we’re supposed to think is a baddy. In no way is the film a binary experience. It’s neither a simple murder mystery with one obvious outcome or another, nor a basic evocation of right and wrong. There are more factors to consider, and a complex continuum of thoughts and emotions to conjure. The story is complex and intelligent enough to provide these in both its narrative and subtext, so Fincher keeps it uncomplicated and effortless.
The cinematography and score are harmoniously humble. Camera movement is minimal and functional, and the lighting stays natural and utilitarian throughout. Likewise, the score generally consists of simple piano melodies or subtle tonal ambience. Much of the dialogue – particularly surrounding Nick – is kept clean, with no mood creating music to be heard. Fincher doesn’t want to further influence the audience’s thoughts on whether or not Nick is guilty. The script is so delicately balanced throughout that it rarely needs help from the soundtrack. In its genre its similar to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but in its directorial approach it’s more akin with The Social Network; character driven, clean cut, and elegantly simple.
Gone Girl is ⅘ an excellent feat of directing, acting and writing, and ⅕ an odd and excluding experience. If the last act doesn’t turn you off then you’ll likely love the whole thing. Overall it’s an engaging and enjoyable experience.
Gone Girl directed by David Fincher, is released by 20th Century Fox, Certificate 18. Watch the trailer below: