Director: David Fincher
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris
149 mins; Class 15;
KRS Releasing Ltd
“When I think of my wife I always think of her head,” says Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) in the opening narration of Gone Girl.
When I think of David Fincher, I always think of Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in Seven, the director’s seminal 1995 thriller, one of the darker entries in his canon.
It is easy to see what drew Fincher to the material. Gone Girl enters some very dark territory. Ostensibly a run-of-the-mill domestic thriller, it features a richly-drawn cast of characters, and a straightforward storyline... under which, however, runs a labyrinthine plot full of murky twists in which nothing is as it seems.
Affleck and Rosamunde Pike star as Nick and Amy Dunne, a gorgeous, hip, happily-married couple.
They move away from their high-flying lives in New York to the Midwest to be with Nick’s mother as she fights illness.
But, beneath the veneer of marital perfection, lies conjugal chaos, as their once-perfect relationship starts to come apart. What Nick does not expect, however, is the disappearance of his wife on their fifth wedding anniversary.
After sharing a few drinks with his sister at the bar they own, he comes home to find Amy gone, the living room thrashed and little evidence to what happened.
Nick calls the police, the inevitable media frenzy ensues, and friends, family and neighbours rally around to help… until Nick himself becomes the prime suspect and the tables are inexorably turned.
What marks this out from other domestic-disturbance themed stories is the ‘he said/she said’ structure of the story.
Taking its cue from the ridiculously successful source novel by Gillian Flynn (who adapted it herself for the screen, thus ensuring her storyline and characters remain largely unsoiled) the film is narrated by Nick in the present and Amy in the past. So we get both points of view of the events that are unfolding before us.
But therein lies the rub: who can we believe? This question hovers throughout, while raising another very valid one: Can a couple be really true to one another if the persona they project is not true to their actual self?
A film of this kind is very difficult to review without giving away significant plot details, intentionally or not. So there is little I can say save that Fincher has crafted an atmospheric, tension-filled piece, and keeps the viewer guessing for a good long while before things become clear.
Or do they? The director has also assembled a perfect duo led by Affleck and Pike, both adding such nuances of ambiguity to their respective characters, they aid and abet Fincher in his manipulation of the audience.
Affleck effortlessly turns on the charm as Nick, the once-devoted husband now struggling to proclaim his innocence as the media spotlight turns glaringly ugly.
And yet, his behaviour with the police, his in-laws and ultimately journalists is not what one would expect from a grieving husband.
He is clearly hiding something, an aspect of the character Affleck projects in subtle looks and gestures. Yet, just because he can be a bit of a jackass, does that automatically mean he is a killer?
And what of Amy? In a meaty role richly deserved by Pike, who has played second fiddle all too often, the presence of this beautiful, vivacious and intelligent woman hovers around proceedings as the hunt for her begins.
But is/was she who everyone thought she was? As she narrates her difficult childhood, the idyllic early days with Nick and those immediately before her disappearance, she wins you over to her side. And yet… there is something that doesn’t quite figure. What is she not telling us?
As I write this, a couple of weeks have passed since I saw the movie and its final act still leaves me very unsettled. On the one hand, I’m not sure it worked depicting as it does an act of horrific violence which jars with the tone that has gone before. On the other hand, that I still mull over it means it did. Apologies for the vagueness… just check it out for yourselves!
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