We’ve all been in those relationships where we suspect our significant other has dark secrets. We may come across certain secrets by chance, or we may be willingly denying ourselves from accepting a long foreseen truth. We want to hold on to that feeling of new passion, and new romance. All the emotions that came rushing in all at once upon meeting someone new then grow to physical, emotional, and sexual attraction. It’s an extraordinary thrill that like the best of highs disappears with time. Then we start to strip away the surface to find what is under the skin: the layers of experience, anxieties, thoughts, and darkness that make up each and every one of us. With each new discovery, we become intrigued and terrified. Even in romance, we still love, but our greatest fear is that the person we want to be around the most will become our most diabolical enemy. This is the fear that is so elegantly and brilliantly portrayed in Gone Girl, a masterpiece of filmmaking that ranks with the best of Hitchcock.
David Fincher is a great filmmaker. This is a man who knows his craft. His technical expertise is matched only by his understanding of what makes a great story. And he’s made two of the most popular films of the past 50 years: Se7en and Fight Club. So any time Fincher releases a new film my expectations are extremely high. His previous adaptation was Stieg Larson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. And like that film, Gone Girl is a terrifying descent into the worst of humanity. Furthermore, it’s a scathing attack on the media and how it is a poisonous tool infested with judgment and biased assumptions, yet it has the ability to shape public opinions on any subject it tries to portray. We see the actual, unbiased events, and then we see how the media shapes that event into a story that represents nothing that took place.
It’s very difficult to talk about this film because so much of its magic is in the story’s progression, which goes through as many twists and turns as a game of Pandemic. It also should be kept secret so you can let it completely engulf you without having to live up to your expectations. So let’s talk about the trailer. The trailer for Gone Girl is an example of how all movie trailers should be. It gets you interested in the film by revealing the concept without spoiling anything. What is marketed to you is essentially a story about Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and his wife Amy Elliot Dunne (Rosamund Pike). But all the shots that you see is only the first third of the movie.
One morning, Nick comes home to find his wife missing. As a manhunt begins to find out what happened to her, we learn about the relationship between Nick and Amy through flashbacks. It starts as a fairy tale encounter between two like minded individuals and then quickly descends into a nightmare on how circumstances and bad decisions can destroy romance. Then something happens that changes everything. As the media gets involved in the disappearance, they start to spin the story into a tabloid topic of the week. More developments of Nick’s unfaithfulness, poor spending habits, and his public demeanour continue to surface to the point where he actually becomes a murder suspect. Margo (Carrie Coon), Nick’s sister, tries to help Nick win back the media’s sympathy but as more stories of Nick resurface, she finds this increasingly more difficult. Hot on his trail is an unbiased but tough as nails detective, Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens), which persuades Nick to hire the most high profile lawyer that he can, Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry).
This is an extremely well crafted mystery that relies on clues, character motivations, and suspense to tell its story. It would be easy to dismiss the film, including its source novel, as misogynist, but in truth it is an incredible piece of work that shows that women can be as evil, manipulative, and conniving as any male. This isn’t killing feminism in any sense of the word, nor is it passing judgment on women as the adage goes, “bitches be crazy.” But it’s placing women as equal to men. We’ve seen horrific male villains before, but when was the last time we saw an iconic female villain that didn’t fall immediately into some sort of damaged goods stereotype (300: Rise of an Empire) or a caricature (Scream 4). The film is populated with strong, level headed female heroines like Margo and Detective Boney. But its central villain is as vicious as Robert Mitchum’s Harry Powell in The Night of the Hunter or Joseph Cotton’s Uncle Charlie in the Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece Shadow of a Doubt. Except this is a whole new type of viciousness, one that uses female sexuality as a predatory act in and of itself. The film’s most violent and disturbing scene is the most perfect metaphor for this.
Even the film’s anti-climactic ending, which has infuriated many audiences, is perfect. There is no way this film could have ended differently and retained its power. You are left with Nick Dunne choosing to remain in a situation where he is no longer in control, both for the sake of someone he loves and also to protect himself from the media’s destructive tendencies. If Tanner Bolt can’t save you, then no one else can or will.
Ben Affleck has had one of the most fluctuating careers of any star. He burst onto the scene as a great writer and promising actor. Then after a series of bad movies and career killing publicity, he became an award-winning director. With Gone Girl, Ben Affleck proves that he’s as fully capable an actor as he is a filmmaker by giving the best performance of his career. The same goes for Rosamund Pike, who up to now has been nothing but a forgettable supporting actress. Here, she steals the show. She may not win the Oscar this year, but her nomination is well deserved because I can’t think of a more memorable performance by a female this year. Also hitting career highs are Tyler Perry, who is just perfect here, and Neil Patrick Harris in a sharp dramatic turn as a millionaire with ulterior motives.
This is just an incredibly well made movie in every shape and form, and will stay with you long after you leave the theatre. See this movie now as it will go down as one of the defining films of 2014.