Sunday, October 5, 2014

'Gone Girl' review

David Fincher has made some of the most thrilling and shocking films of our time, so when he decided to tackle Gillian Flynn's best-selling novel Gone Girl, people were undeniably excited. It seemed like a perfect match for the director who has directed dark thrillers and character studies like Fight Club, Seven and Zodiac in the past. Mix that in with a screenplay by the book's author, and a cast led by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, you've got a movie that cinephiles were chomping at the bit to see. And I can't see a single one of them being disappointed. Gone Girl is one of the best films of the year, if not the best. A dark, hauntingly brilliant film with twisted satire thrown in for good measure, Gone Girl is deliciously entertaining and addictive. It's a film that will grab you and it will never let you go. David Fincher knocked this one out of the park.

Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) wakes up on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary. He drives off to get some coffee and after that, he heads over to the bar that he co-owns with his sister, Margo (Carrie Coon). Nick returns home to find a glass table broken and discovers that his wife is gone. Nick is concerned and immediately calls the police. Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and Officer Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) are assigned to the case and instantly grow suspicious of Nick. Lots of things just don't add up and everyone seems like they're hiding something. The media jumps on the case with furious, Nancy Grace-esque journalist Ellen Abbott (Missi Pyle) leading the charge. Nick's life becomes a circus and he finds himself at the center of the most hotly-debated crime case in America.

While these events are occurring, the audience also gets a glimpse into the life of Nick and Amy (played by Rosamund Pike) before her mysterious disappearance. Her diary tells a different tale of a marriage gone sour and that's when we realize that everything might not be exactly what we think.

Gone Girl is a tough movie not to spoil, but in all honesty, it's a movie that can't be spoiled. This is an absolutely terrific thriller and one that me blew me away completely. Darkly addictive, acidic, biting, satirical, disturbing, invigorating- these are all adjectives that describe Fincher's masterwork. He controls this film so tightly and adapts Gillian Flynn's script perfectly for the big screen. Ben Affleck is very solid as Nick and Rosamund Pike gives a mesmerizing performance as Amy Dunne. In the process, Pike creates one of the most memorable characters in recent memory. The cinematography is also stunning and the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is flat-out awesome. This pitch-perfect film is one of the best in recent memory and a great time at the movies.

What's most impressive about Gone Girl is the way that Fincher paces this film. I wouldn't say that it starts slow, but I would most certainly assure you that it continues to get better as it goes along. Like any celebrity media case, Gone Girl starts off looking a little boring on the surface, but you just know there's more to the mystery. By the half hour mark of this movie, I was hooked and Flynn and Fincher kept me transfixed until the credits rolled. As the media circus enters and twists comes in, Gone Girl becomes a movie that you can't turn away from. It's a truly exciting and invigorating experience.

Fincher and Flynn also manage to balance several different genres and tones throughout, which is an extremely impressive feat. They are able to have several of those tones together at the same time as well, which is even more impressive. Gone Girl is a twisted satire of media culture and domestic American life. It's a Hitchcockian thriller with delicious twists and shocking outbursts of violence. It's a horrific and disturbing Fincher-style procedural. And it is so much more. How many movies are able to be one of those things, let alone all of them?

Fincher's ability to add twisted humor to such dark and nasty material is what stood out to me the most at times. Awkward moments of laughter were pervasive throughout my screening and it's all because of how dead on this movie is. The dark humor about how men and women truly hate each other connected with me a little bit, but I was very impressed by Fincher's satire of the media. Our media culture pervades through our life like vultures and Fincher and Flynn play off that for most of the movie and it's awesome. All of their problems with the media culture are embodied in Ellen Abbott, who is played with a delicious insincerity by Missi Pyle. Abbott is clearly modeled after Nancy Grace and she jumps on the Nick Dunne case faster than an Olympic sprinter. She's a despicable character and Fincher truly makes you think about the way media is consumed and our current culture. It's very interesting.

The elements of Hitchcock truly come out in the third act, but they are delectably macabre and totally awesome. A few scenes specifically reminded me of classics such as Psycho and North by Northwest. Fincher mixes sex and violence very much like Hitchcock did and I was surprised by that. We've seen him make disturbing satires and gripping procedural thrillers before, but this is something entirely different. Scenes crackle with palpable suspense and I loved every second of it.

Fincher and Flynn do a great job with the themes and the blending of tones, but the actors surely play their part. Although Ben Affleck didn't blow me away, he still delivers a very good performance. He's able to be a sympathetic victim, an angry brute and a dastardly scumbag at various times and his range truly shows. Rosamund Pike, on the other hand, blew me away completely. I can't say much without spoiling what makes her character special. I'll just say that Pike makes Amy Dunne one of the most memorable characters of the 21st century.

The supporting cast is led by terrific character actors and stars who wouldn't seem to fit this material, but surprisingly do. Neil Patrick Harris is miscast as Desi Collings, a creeper from Amy's past. Yet I still managed to find a lot of redeeming qualities in his performance. Tyler Perry does great work as Tanner Bolt, one of those celebrity lawyers that you always see pop up during these kind of cases. Carrie Coon manages to give a sympathetic performance as Nick's twin sister who gets sucked into the madness of the case. And Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit are very strong as the cops assigned to the case. Fincher managed to create quite a cast for this one and did an absolutely terrific job.

This film is also a technical masterpiece, filled with beautiful, brooding cinematography, a disturbing, gripping score by Reznor and Ross, and terrific sound work overall. The darkness of the camerawork is appropriate for the film and Jeff Cronenweth does a terrific job. Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor and his collaborator Atticus Ross create a score that starts off quite sublime, but grows into something more disturbing and frightening. In many ways, the score mirrors the film itself.

And despite the fact that I'm heaping tons of praise on Fincher for his brilliant work, Gillian Flynn's screenplay is masterfully tight and it grips the audience throughout. No scene feels unnecessary, and she balances the multiple stories with assurance and it's never confusing whatsoever. Flynn also manages to keep the momentum up and make the movie progressively and progressively more interesting as it goes along. That is very difficult to do.

What can be said about Gone Girl that I haven't said already? It's a masterpiece of a film, a tantalizing, addictive, violent drama that grabs you and doesn't let you go until the last frame. It's a film that I only see getting better with time. It balances multiple stories perfectly and it's a crackling, intriguing mystery. Simply put, it's the best film of 2014 and a movie that I will watch for years to come. Fincher's darkly comic and disturbing Hitchcockian masterwork.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A+                                            (10/10)

Image Credits: Screen Rant, Awards Daily, The Independent, Movie Pilot, Fat Movie Guy, Yahoo, Shot on 35

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